Magaly Rodriguez’s house is always crowded on December 31, not only with a large number of family and friends but also with the usual rituals that reach their peak just as the clock welcomes the New Year.
Out with the old, in with the new — New Year’s Eve Customs
Most of the guests at this party carry in their left hand the twelve grapes that they will eat with champagne while listening to the twelve chimes of midnight. Others carry bills (some mix bolivars, dollars and euros) in their right hand to call for luck.
To sit and stand while eating the grapes, one or several single women have already secured their chairs. For those who do not want to stay to dress saints, it is customary to perform this rite.
The grandmother hands out pots of lentils in a corner to people who want to call prosperity, while others put on yellow underwear under their clothes. The more daring pack their bags and prepare their passports for numerous trips abroad.
“We are a big, bohemian family, so doing all the New Year’s rituals is a tradition for us. Despite their absurdity, these customs give us a sense of vitality, optimism and joy,” says Rodriguez.
“December 31 is ideal to leave the bad behind. You have to start the new year off right. Out with the old, in with the new, as they say,” adds Emma Battistella, a teacher and close family friend.
Money and love
Among the customs that many Venezuelans follow on the last day of the year are the rituals of grapes, yellow underwear, suitcases, lentils and money in hand, in addition to esoteric baths and stripping or special cleansings for the home or workplace.
The New Year’s Eve packages are in great demand, according to Jairo Norea and Lucelina Cardón, owners of Perfumera Negra Francisca, located in aisle 2 of the Puerto La Cruz municipal market.
The kit comes with candles, incense, an “energized” aromatic liquid for cleaning and bathing, as well as a Feng Shui medallion that can be placed in a tent as protection or carried in the wallet.
There are many options in esoteric stores to stock up on incense and baths with roses, champagne, sandalwood, pine, mandarin, cariaquito, milk and amethyst, among other scents, for those who want to invoke love, peace, ward off the kettle or achieve something specific.
“Sweeping the 31 from the entrance and towards the bottom will allow the good to enter the house. If you want to get rid of the bad, do it the other way around, starting at the back of the house and working your way up to the door,” says Cardón.
If the previous year has not gone well in matters of the heart, it is advised to tie a red ribbon to a photo of the loved one on December 31. Then, with a little luck, put it under the pillow for the morning of January 1.
Goodbye to bad luck!
Eating twelve grapes and counting the seeds is one of the most popular rituals; the resulting number will be the lucky one for the following year. Other common practices are cleaning the house, taking body baths and lighting incense, all, in the eyes of believers, to ward off bad luck and attract positive energies.
Cleanings and incense burnings are for material objects, such as the house, car and other items, while baths are applied to the body. The most commonly used materials are, among others, sandalwood, flowers, macuá birds, onyx, cinnamon, mint and basil.
Some suggest lighting a yellow candle (of abundance) at noon on December 31 along with seven grains of rice, seven lentils and seven coins.
Light the candle and make a wish for happiness, love and abundance for the family. Bury the rice and lentils when the candle is completely consumed. Keep the coins because they will not be used for six months.
The tranquility of the soul in the home
Cinnamon is recommended to achieve spiritual tranquility in the home. Two or three glasses of water and seven or eight cinnamon sticks should be put on the fire and then close the house so that the aroma fills the air. This will create a calmer atmosphere at home and keep arguments and fights at bay.
Basil has many uses, but the main one is to ward off “bad spirits”. Simply prepare an infusion and place it under the mattress.
With information from El Tiempo Newspaper