As 2015 rolls in, a little bit of luck is often what people are looking for with whatever might be their New Year traditions, and that is true in Costa Rica, too.
Eating twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight is a New Year tradition that has passed from Spain into the land of Pura Vida. Lentils and Garbanzos are often considered to be somewhat like the shape of money, and so they are carried or consumed on New Year’s Day in hopes that they will yield prosperity in the New Year. This tradition has been passed along, most likely, by Italian immigrants. All the hopes, wishes and prayers that are pressed into the varying traditions associated with New Year’s Eve and Day seem to emanate from a similar place; the desire to find oneself progressing in life.
New Year’s traditions are indeed for the optimist. A kiss at midnight means that you’ll find love in the New Year, or keep it secure if already possessed. A little bit of the bubbly symbolizes the end of the past years transgressions bubbling to the top of the glass, and then popping and floating off like so much air escaping, dispersing and, most importantly, disappearing in the wind. Sky lanterns, or as they are called in Costa Rica “Desire Balloons,” are sent into the sky, and fire crackers explode at the witching hour.
Fire crackers and sky lanterns have been co-opted from Asia, and the fireworks tradition was believed to scare away the monster Nian年 who had the head of a lion and the body of a bull. The monster would come into the village at the end of winter when food was scarce, so the village people would set off fireworks to frighten the monster away. And, while all these traditions are geared towards the same principle idea, they have stood the test of time.
Costa Rica has, indeed, adopted some of these New Year traditions, but there are still some that can be considered peculiar to this land. Wearing yellow on New Year’s Day appears to be something unique to Costa Rica. The Chinese wear red through-out the Chinese New Year, but that isn’t even scheduled around the Gregorian calendar. Ticas place Santa Lucia flowers in their wallets to bring love, health and money in the New Year. Some folks even run around the block with a suitcase full of clothes in hopes of traveling more.
All the traditions seem to spring from one place or another, and carry with them a sense of the innate smallness of our existence. The unavoidable reality that there are indeed many things beyond our control, and that surrendering our fears and wishes to a higher authority is the only practical thing to do. To deny them would be a fallacy. Whatever your preferred method, good luck and god bless you and yours in this New Year.