One of my favorite New Year’s celebrations to date was December 2013. Some friends and I attended a concert by soul artist, Musiq Soulchild, at Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. We then returned to a home-cooked meal of rice, black-eyed peas, and greens at 4 am on January 1st, 2014. My friend, whose family comes from the American south, explained that the black-eyed peas give both luck and the greens symbolize money. If I remember correctly, 2014 was a great year for me.
On the African side, it is a known fact that many Africans go to church or the club on the night of the 31st into the New Year. Many young people do both, that is, in church for the “crossover”, then at 2 am, head to the club to party and celebrate with friends.
But I am especially interested in traditions that bring wealth, peace, and prosperity, so I went on a search to find traditions with which Africans ushered in the New Year, and why.
In Ethiopia or Egypt, the Coptic Christians celebrate the New Year in September. They culturally celebrate the New Year by eating red dates. The dates’ red exterior symbolizes blood, the white insides represent purity, and the seeds of the dates stand for faith. Some also eat the guava fruit, which has similar symbolism as red dates.
Offrima is a well-known masquerade party. Tribes dress up in the costume and perform tribal dances. There is a provision that no one can unmask himself while performing the dance, as the mask is supposed to protect mind, body, and soul from getting vulnerable to any evil spirits.
Haitians historically eat soup joumou, a spicy winter squash soup on New Years. Haitian tradition holds that the soup was enjoyed by the slave masters and forbidden for the slaves. Soup Joumou is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day as a historical tribute to Haitian Independence in 1804.
Iemanjá or Yemanja is an African deity, whose name derives from the Yoruba expression Yéyé omo ejá (“Mother whose children are fish”). In Brazilian myth, she is the deity that controls water. Brazilian New Year’s tradition holds that it is important to appease her with gifts such as flowers on the day or day before. If you are on the beach, light some candles and throw flowers toward the sea.
Want to usher in the year on a good note, try these traditions for luck and prosperity!