12 New Year’s Eve Traditions Around the World

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Are you trying to push Covid-19 behind you? I am. Especially since I’m awaiting a test to see if I’m positive or not. Hopefully, not. A family member who tested positive is asymptomatic but everyone in the household decided to get a test.

So, while we’re waiting and isolating, I’m reading and writing. With New Year’s rapidly approaching, and the annual group festivities out the window, I found these traditions from around the world that you can do while isolating or semi-isolating.

Traditions are important, to me, because they give a feeling of continuity and security. Through the decades, my traditions have changed from parties to fancy dinners out, to family dinners, movies with my teens, and the past few years to watching the ball drop on television or YouTube.

This year, I’m saying good riddance to 2020 and adopting a couple of rituals from other countries to celebrate and embrace the new year.


From the land of Tango, they celebrate New Year’s Eve with a bowl of beans. People believe that eating beans before the clock strikes midnight means they will have good luck in their careers in the year ahead. (I think this one is a practical joke, myself, if you get my drift).

Costa Rica:

Photo by mentatdgt on

This is a tradition where you get your last steps in for the evening. It’s tradition to grab a suitcase and run around the block in the hopes of traveling in the new year. This is to be done at midnight.

Uh, no. This one is not for me. I’d be traveling to the hospital from slipping on wet concrete or dog poop.


A bit of travel, but only from a chair to the floor. Just before midnight, stop what you’re doing and get on a chair to execute the jump like a Dane would. If you don’t jump, it’s said that you’ll bring bad luck for the following year, so please, I’m begging you — do not forget to jump. If you’re a Dane. If you’re not, it’s optional.


A bit of fire and smoke: People head outside to burn effigies that symbolize the year. By lighting the effigy on fire, you’re letting the bad of the year go and moving onto the next.

Do you think a CoVid piñata would suffice? What would you burn in effigy?


Berliners-German Doughnuts

Yum, doughnuts. Germans enjoy a traditional treat of jam-filled, and sometimes liquor-filled, “Pfannkuchens” in Berlin and “Berliners” everywhere else in Germany. Sometimes, a donut may contain a practical joke, like mustard instead of jam, which is considered by some to be bad luck. They also dine on marzipan pigs for good luck on New Year’s Eve — which they also call Sylvesterabend.


The simplest tradition involves onions. Lots of them. On a string. On their door to encourage growth. They make up for this ritual by baking a vasilopita on New Year’s Day. A coin is hidden in the cake. Whoever finds the coin is said to have a year of good luck. (I hope they use a fork for the cake and don’t bite into a piece).


Photo by Donna Hamlet on

Single women of Ireland place sprigs of mistletoe under their pillows on New Year’s night in the hope that it will bring them better luck and a future husband. (I am on a quest now for mistletoe).


Nengajo Cards

Yes, finally food items. Japanese tradition of eating Tosikoshi Noodles or “year-crossing” soba, which can symbolize having a long and fortunate life along with a clean break from the year.

On New Year’s Eve, there is also a tradition in the Buddhist temples. They ring their bells 108 times to welcome Toshigami, the New Year’s God. A nice gesture is sending thank-you cards called nengajo that wish a Happy New Year and give thanks to friends and relatives.


More food, lots of it, too. In the U.S, we (Americans of Mexican ethnicity or Chicanos or Latinos/Latinx) eat up the last of the Christmas tamales as part of a big dinner.

In some parts of Mexico, the dinner celebration also includes Bacalaó which is salted cod. Also followed by eating twelve grapes for twelve wishes (a tradition in Spain), fireworks, and sparkling wine.

Puerto Rico:

More food. Latinx enjoy food and family and celebrations together. Traditional food is served like arroz con gandules, roasted pig, pasteles, coquito, pitorro, rice pudding or tembleque.

If you’ve never had coquito, you’re missing out. This rummy, creamy, coconut drink recipe can be found on LiYun Alvarado’s website (no relation, but friends).

In Puerto Rico, people throw a bucket of water out of their windows to drive away evil spirits. They also sweep the house and yard clean. Brushing out the old to make room for the new sounds right to me.


Grab a piece of paper, write down your wishes for 2021, and light the paper on fire. (stick to Post-It size). Once it’s stopped burning, sprinkle the wish-filled ashes into a glass of champagne and drink up after the clock strikes midnight. (Uh, no. I’m not ruining a perfectly good glass of champagne).


Photo by Luiz M. Santos on

Now, this is easy and healthy (unless you have diabetes; in that case stick to 8 grapes). Las Doce Uvas de Suerte (the 12 grapes of good luck) are placed in a bowl or cup. When the clock strikes midnight, start downing the grapes, one at a time. You must finish in a minute.

For bonus points: A pair of red underwear can bring you a new year of love, while yellow may bring joy and fortune.

Several Latin American countries do grapes and underwear. I’m making sure my red ones available. I’m thinking of wearing yellow ones on top, too.

So, there you have it. Twelve traditions from around the world.

I’d love to hear about your traditions, especially from countries not listed.

Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy New Year’s Eve whatever you do.

Books, Writing

How to Increase Latinx Representation in Children’s Literature

Graphic by Tatiana Gardel, Illustrator


Hi everyone.  I was on a COVID hiatus during the spring and summer, but I am back to posting.

I hope you were all well and managed to avoid the virus as it has wreaked havoc with so many people, including my son, who lives in New York City. Thankfully, he successfully battled the virus and is doing so much better.

The cute graphic up top is an illustration of the varied shades of Latino’s or Latinx children. More so than in my generation, children are multi-ethnic, bi-racial, or multi-racial as my children are and several in our extended families.

Stories by Latinx are not only about one or two subjects, just like Latinx people are not one ‘type,’ but this rich heritage is often not reflected in the written language of children’s books or adult books for that matter.

There is a concept in education called “Windows and Mirrors.” A mirror is a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity. A window is a resource that offers you a view of someone else’s experience.

When students read books where they see characters like themselves who are valued in the world, they feel a sense of belonging. Rudine Sims Bishop

This fact motivated several writers, authors, editors, illustrators, and others in the publishing arena to increase and publicize the stories they have to tell.

I belong to one such group, LatinxPitch, modeled after the Twitter groups, PitchMad and DVPit. I’m a co-founder of LatinxPitch, along with eleven other authors.

Recently, the esteemed NPR featured LatinxPitch and the other groups on their Book News and Features.

There are so many good things happening in the world of increasing representation in children’s literature. I hope you check out the article and descriptions of picture books, middle grade, and Young Adult literature that is highlighted.

In early December, there will be an online Latinx Kidlit Book Festival.

Latinx Kidlit Book Festival


Keep the list of children’s books handy for the holidays or to request from your local library.

Stay safe and be well,


CoVID19 and War Stories

This is not meant to minimize any pain or isolation anxiety you may be experiencing


This is day eleven of my self imposed “Stay at Home,” routine and day five of the California Governor’s decree.

How are you all doing?

Amid the humorous and not so funny memes and photos, I came across the above message, which gave me pause to reflect.

My mother is in her 90’s. Practicing self-isolation, I don’t visit, but I phone and ask her how she’s doing.

“Oh, fine.” She then goes on to talk about her “normal for her” ailments of age.

I talk to my sister, who lives with Mom, and ask, “How’s Mom doing?”

“She’s like nothing’s different, no big deal.”

I realize Mom is in a different situation than most elderly. She has a family member living with her who takes care of cooking, cleaning, and her medication. The other family members live within the county and take care of appointments, excursions, and visiting.

Many other elderly are not as fortunate.

Mom and I got to talking about her experiences with difficult times. She was born during the depression and was a pre-teen during World War II, which she remembers clearly.

Orphaned a year before war broke out, Mom was one of five children, second to the last. The youngest nine and the oldest seventeen.

This is one of the stories Mom related:

In the post office, there were giant posters of an Army woman, with a finger to her lips, with the caption “Shhh, be careful what you say because it may cost a life,” and “Loose lips sink ships.” 

Newspaper headlines reported that a Japanese submarine fired on a boat off the coast of Santa Barbara.  Another paper headline said “LA Area Raided!” There were rumors that Los Angeles had come under Japanese attack with airplane fire and bombs.

Your Uncle Cata enlisted in the Army. He had quit school when he was in the 9th grade, so he could work to support us when our parents died.

Lute was fifteen, but he worked at two jobs, which kept him out at night. He tried to enlist, but he wasn’t accepted.  He had injuries from playing football and was called a 4-F.  He was so disappointed; he moped around the house for days, but I was glad he wasn’t going, because then who would take care of us?

Sometimes I was frightened, mostly in the evenings when Lute was gone to work. I had nightmares about the Japanese bombing Pomona, especially when the practice air-raid siren would blast its earsplitting alarm. 

Walking up and down the street, the neighborhood air raid warden moved his flashlight around our dark yard, the light darting across our rickety wood fence and up and down our fruit trees, like ghosts running back and forth.

Della and I would turn off the radio, the lights and cover the windows with blankets. We’d run through the darkness and hide under our bedcovers, hugging each other,  sweating in the summer heat, when the warning siren blasted into the night.

How I wanted to have my mother and father, to wrap their arms around us and tell us that everything would be okay; that we weren’t going to be bombed and that they would protect us and we would be safe, like before the war. 

But I knew that wouldn’t happen. They were dead. My dad for four years, my mom for one. 

So I held my tears in and tried to be brave for my little sister.  I told her everything was going to be okay, even though I didn’t feel like it was the truth. It was a very lonely and scary time.

This saddened me, because I know life can be so much worse. I thought about the kids in the same situation, those in detention centers, those without caring parents or siblings to protect them, and sad for any person who is isolated without anyone to help.

I think about what others are doing, the medical staff, first responders, educators, my son who stocks groceries and prepares food at a Brooklyn natural foods store, my daughter who works in a doctor’s office, and my other son whose factory is now making hand sanitizer.

I worry that they could catch the COVID19 virus by taking the subway to work, although it’s desolate now, or coming into contact with others at their worksites.

But Mom’s story also reminded me to continue to record all of her recollections. If you haven’t put your parent’s experiences onto the page, or computer, now’s a good time. Organize those old photos, tell their stories to your children, tell your stories to your kids. Now’s the time.

Thanks for reading. Now, I’ll return to the routine I’ve set up for myself. My “Artist in Residence” schedule.

Writer’s and Creatives

Prayer, meditation, writing, reading, exercise, gardening, meal preparation, phoning others, thirty minutes of news and social media, a couple of hours of T.V (you know I’m lying, it’s sometimes more) and back to prayer.

Be safe. Stay at home. Be Kind. Wash Your Hands.






Social Isolation and Writing Through Anxiety

Are you weeding the garden? On a Sunday?

Church services were canceled by our Pastor due to our Governor’s decree of no more than 250 people in one area. My mom is in the elderly group (and immunocompromised), so I do take this virus seriously and skipped services.

So this weekend (and probably a few more in the immediate future), I find myself with time on my hands.

Due to our self imposed social isolation and no toilet paper to buy in the markets or online, we are now doing non-social activities, at least until the TP runs out.

Update: bartered books for rolls. Surreptitiously, I picked up, with an antiseptic wipe,  the bag of TP my friend left for me on her porch. I left her and her kids several books.

Books for toilet paper. Yes, it has come to that.


Our pantry is now organized and clean. I found out we have oatmeal for the next decade. We found most of the Tupperware lids. I don’t know why we have three picnic baskets.

Our cat, Heidi Ho, is mystified that I’m home and pulling weeds in the backyard on a Sunday. The ground is still damp from the rain, but I need some outside activity.

Here’s the latest decree in California:

California Governor Newsome


So much for Happy Hours. We have a burgeoning brewpub industry here. I heard the local pizza place delivers wine and beer.

Last week I returned from the AWP (Association of Writing Professionals) Conference in San Antonio and scored a few books. That and NetGalley will keep me in reading material for a month, plus I’m two books behind on my self-imposed book challenge. (You can find my reviews on GoodReads if you’re looking for a book).

Writing in this time of anxiety has turned out to be a good thing. Writing helps me turn away from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which some people are using to post pics of empty store shelves, stoking rumors, and generally acting out their anxieties-which creates fear.

Understandable, but I need to self-restrict from all things panicky. I do like the memes, though. Humor is a good salve and coping mechanism.

Driver: You can’t give me a ticket. Officer: Of course, I can. It’ll be in the mail.

If you’re working from home:

May I offer meditation for those who feel stressed. Hop over to my friend, Mikko’s page at Elemental Energy Healing, for grounding exercises.


My favorite reminder:



What are you doing during this time of social isolation?