Some days I put the people in their places at the table,
bend their legs at the knees,
if they come with that feature,
and fix them into the tiny wooden chairs.
All afternoon they face one another,
the man in the brown suit,
the woman in the blue dress,
perfectly motionless, perfectly behaved.
But other days, I am the one
who is lifted up by the ribs, then lowered into the dining room of a dollhouse
to sit with the others at the long table.
but how would you like it
if you never knew from one day to the next if you were going to spend it
striding around like a vivid god,
your shoulders in the clouds, or sitting down there amidst the wallpaper,
staring straight ahead with your little plastic face?
This is the annual update of my New Year’s post, a tradition I started early on on FmH. Please let me know if you find any dead links:
I once ran across a January 1st Boston Globe article compiling folkloric beliefs about what to do, what to eat, etc. on New Year’s Day to bring good fortune for the year to come. I’ve regretted since — I usually think of it around once a year (grin) — not clipping out and saving the article. Especially since we’ve had children, I’m interested in enduring traditions that go beyond getting drunk [although some comment that this is a profound enactment of the interdigitation of chaos and order appropriate to the New Year’s celebration — FmH], watching the bowl games and making resolutions.
A web search brought me this, less elaborate than what I recall from the Globe but to the same point. It is weighted toward eating traditions, which is odd because, unlike most other major holidays, the celebration of New Year’s in 21st century America does not seem to be centered at all around thinking about what we eat (except in the sense of the traditional weight-loss resolutions!) and certainly not around a festive meal. But…
Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.
“Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another ‘good luck’ vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.”
The further north one travels in the British Isles, the more the year-end festivities focus on New Year’s. The Scottish observance of Hogmanay has many elements of warming heart and hearth, welcoming strangers and making a good beginning:
“Three cornered biscuits called hogmanays are eaten. Other special foods are: wine, ginger cordial, cheese, bread, shortbread, oatcake, carol or carl cake, currant loaf, and a pastry called scones. After sunset people collect juniper and water to purify the home. Divining rituals are done according to the directions of the winds, which are assigned their own colors. First Footing:The first person who comes to the door on midnight New Year’s Eve should be a dark-haired or dark-complected man with gifts for luck. Seeing a cat, dog, woman, red-head or beggar is unlucky. The person brings a gift (handsel) of coal or whiskey to ensure prosperity in the New Year. Mummer’s Plays are also performed. The actors called the White Boys of Yule are all dressed in white, except for one dressed as the devil in black. It is bad luck to engage in marriage proposals, break glass, spin flax, sweep or carry out rubbish on New Year’s Eve.”
Here’s why we clink our glasses when we drink our New Year’s toasts, no matter where we are. Of course, sometimes the midnight cacophony is louder than just clinking glassware, to create a ‘devil-chasing din’.
In Georgia, eat black eyed peas and turnip greens on New Year’s Day for luck and prosperity in the year to come, supposedly because they symbolize coppers and currency. Hoppin’ John, a concoction of peas, onion, bacon and rice, is also a southern New Year’s tradition, as is wearing yellow to find true love (in Peru and elsewhere in South America, yellow underwear, apparently!) or carrying silver for prosperity. In some instances, a dollar bill is thrown in with the other ingredients of the New Year’s meal to bring prosperity. In Greece, there is a traditional New Year’s Day sweetbread with a silver coin baked into it. All guests get a slice of the bread and whoever receives the slice with the coin is destined for good fortune for the year. At Italian tables, lentils, oranges and olives are served. The lentils, looking like coins, will bring prosperity; the oranges are for love; and the olives, symbolic of the wealth of the land, represent good fortune for the year to come.
A New Year’s meal in Norway also includes dried cod, “lutefisk.” The Pennsylvania Dutch make sure to include sauerkraut in their holiday meal, also for prosperity.
In Spain, you would cram twelve grapes in your mouth at midnight, one each time the clock chimed, for good luck for the twelve months to come. (If any of the grapes happens to be sour, the corresponding month will not be one of your most fortunate in the coming year.) The U. S. version of this custom, for some reason, involves standing on a chair as you pop the grapes. In Denmark, jumping off a chair at the stroke of midnight signifies leaping into the New Year. In Rio,
The crescent-shaped Copacabana beach… is the scene of an unusual New Year’s Eve ritual: mass public blessings by the mother-saints of the Macumba and Candomble sects. More than 1 million people gather to watch colorful fireworks displays before plunging into the ocean at midnight after receiving the blessing from the mother-saints, who set up mini-temples on the beach.
When taking the plunge, revelers are supposed to jump over seven waves, one for each day of the week.
This is all meant to honor Lamanjá, known as the “Mother of Waters” or “Goddess of the Sea.” Lamanjá protects fishermen and survivors of shipwrecks. Believers also like to throw rice, jewelry and other gifts into the water, or float them out into the sea in intimately crafted miniature boats, to please Lamanjá in the new year.
Ecuadorian families make scarecrows stuffed with newspaper and firecrackers and place them outside their homes. The dummies represent misfortunes of the prior year, which are then burned in effigy at the stroke of midnight to forget the old year. Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck.
In China, homes are cleaned spotless to appease the Kitchen God, and papercuttings of red paper are hung in the windows to scare away evil spirits who might enter the house and bring misfortune. Large papier mache dragon heads with long fabric bodies are maneuvered through the streets during the Dragon Dance festival, and families open their front doors to let the dragon bring good luck into their homes.
The Indian Diwali, or Dipawali, festival, welcoming in the autumnal season, also involves attracting good fortune with lights. Children make small clay lamps, dipas, thousands of which might adorn a given home. In Thailand, one pours fragrant water over the hands of elders on New Year’s Day to show them respect.
a stack of pancakes for the New Year’s breakfast in France.
banging on friends’ doors in Denmark to “smash in” the New Year, where it is also a good sign to find your doorstep heaped with broken dishes on New Year’s morning. Old dishes are saved all years to throw at your friends’ homes on New Year’s Eve.
going in the front door and out the back door at midnight in Ireland.
making sure the First Footer, the first person through your door in the New Year in Scotland, is a tall dark haired visitor.
water out the window at midnight in Puerto Rico rids the home of evil spirits.
cleanse your soul in Japan at the New Year by listening to a gong tolling 108 times, one for every sin
it is Swiss good luck to let a drop of cream fall on the floor on New Year’s Day.
Belgian farmers wish their animals a Happy New Year for blessings.
In Germany and Austria, lead pouring” (das Bleigießen) is an old divining practice using molten lead like tea leaves. A small amount of lead is melted in a tablespoon (by holding a flame under the spoon) and then poured into a bowl or bucket of water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. For instance, if the lead forms a ball (der Ball), that means luck will roll your way. The shape of an anchor (der Anker) means help in need. But a cross (das Kreuz) signifies death. This is also a practice in parts of Finland, apparently.
El Salvadoreans crack an egg in a glass at midnight and leave it on the windowsill overnight; whatever figure it has made in the morning is indicative of your fortune for the year.
Some Italians like to take part in throwing pots, pans, and old furniture from their windows when the clock strikes midnight. This is done as a way for residents to rid of the old and welcome in the new. It also allows them to let go of negativity. This custom is also practiced in parts of South Africa, the Houston Press adds.
In Colombia, walk around with an empty suitcase on New Year’s Day for a year full of travel.
In the Philippines, all the lights in the house are turned on at midnight, and previously opened windows, doors and cabinets throughout the house are suddenly slammed shut, to ward off evil spirits for the new year.
In Russia a wish is written down on a piece of paper. It is burned and the ash dissolved in a glass of champagne, which should be downed before 12:01 am if the wish is to come true.
Romanians celebrate the new year by wearing bear costumes and dancing around to ward off evil
In Turkey, pomegranates are thrown down from the balconies at midnight for good luck.
“It’s a bit bizarre when you think about it. A short British cabaret sketch from the 1920s has become a German New Year’s tradition. Yet, although The 90th Birthday or Dinner for One is a famous cult classic in Germany and several other European countries, it is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, including Britain, its birthplace.” (Watch on Youtube, 11 min.)
Some history; documentation of observance of the new year dates back at least 4000 years to the Babylonians, who also made the first new year’s resolutions (reportedly voews to return borrowed farm equipment were very popular), although their holiday was observed at the vernal equinox. The Babylonian festivities lasted eleven days, each day with its own particular mode of celebration. The traditional Persian Norouz festival of spring continues to be considered the advent of the new year among Persians, Kurds and other peoples throughout Central Asia, and dates back at least 3000 years, deeply rooted in Zooastrian traditions.Modern Bahá’í’s celebrate Norouz (”Naw Ruz”) as the end of a Nineteen Day Fast. Rosh Hashanah (”head of the year”), the Jewish New Year, the first day of the lunar month of Tishri, falls between September and early October. Muslim New Year is the first day of Muharram, and Chinese New Year falls between Jan. 10th and Feb. 19th of the Gregorian calendar.
The classical Roman New Year’s celebration was also in the spring although the calendar went out of synchrony with the sun. January 1st became the first day of the year by proclamation of the Roman Senate in 153 BC, reinforced even more strongly when Julius Caesar established what came to be known as the Julian calendar in 46 BC. The early Christian Church condemned new year’s festivities as pagan but created parallel festivities concurrently. New Year’s Day is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision in some denominations. Church opposition to a new year’s observance reasserted itself during the Middle Ages, and Western nations have only celebrated January 1 as a holidy for about the last 400 years. The custom of New Year’s gift exchange among Druidic pagans in 7th century Flanders was deplored by Saint Eligius, who warned them, “[Do not] make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” (Wikipedia)
The tradition of the New Year’s Baby signifying the new year began with the Greek tradition of parading a baby in a basket during the Dionysian rites celebrating the annual rebirth of that god as a symbol of fertility. The baby was also a symbol of rebirth among early Egyptians. Again, the Church was forced to modify its denunciation of the practice as pagan because of the popularity of the rebirth symbolism, finally allowing its members to cellebrate the new year with a baby although assimilating it to a celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus. The addition of Father Time (the “Old Year”) wearing a sash across his chest with the previous year on it, and the banner carried or worn by the New Year’s Baby, immigrated from Germany. Interestingly, January 1st is not a legal holiday in Israel, officially because of its historic origins as a Christian feast day.
Auld Lang Syne (literally ‘old long ago’ in the Scottish dialect) is sung or played at the stroke of midnight throughout the English-speaking world (and then there is George Harrison’s “Ring Out the Old”). Versions of the song have been part of the New Year’s festivities since the 17th century but Robert Burns was inspired to compose a modern rendition, which was published after his death in 1796. (It took Guy Lombardo, however, to make it popular…)
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne? And here’s a hand, my trusty friend And gie’s a hand o’ thine We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet For auld lang syne
Methane gas has been leaking from a storage facility in California’s Aliso Canyon since October 2015 at a rate of 110,000 pounds per hour. You can see the plume in this infrared video shot on December 17, 2015. So far, 1,700 homes have been evacuated. The Southern California Gas Company thinks it will be able to stop the leak “by late February or late March.”
‘Like any year, 2015 had its share of salacious, lurid and gasp-inducing stories. Some of them momentarily outraged us, while the others are still gnawing at our consciousness like a lingering nightmare.
In an effort to put everything in perspective, The Wrap has ranked this year’s most notable scandals, based on the fame of the person at the center of the scandal and the egregiousness of the offense…’
Via The Atlantic: ‘The GOP planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war. Can the party reconcile the demands of its donors with the interests of its rank and file?’
‘If you’re ever wading through a river in China and step on something squishy, take care—you might be standing on Andrias davidianus, the largest amphibian on Earth.
This is exactly what Chinese media sources say happened last week when a fisherman discovered a Chinese giant salamander in a cave outside the city of Chongqing (map).The gentle giant weighs 114 pounds (53 kilograms) and stretches over 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long, according to the Chinese state-run publication People’s Daily Online.
Believing the salamander to be ill, the fisherman contacted the authorities, which captured the animal and transferred it to a facility for “protection and further study.” While some subsequent news reports cite anonymous experts claiming the animal may be more than two centuries old, these estimates are at odds with what scientists know about the species. “It is a big salamander, and they grow slowly,” says Theodore Papenfuss, a herpetologist and researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, “but the oldest I’ve heard of is 50 years, and that was in captivity.” ‘
‘Just east of the Homestead-Miami Speedway, off Florida’s Biscayne Bay, two nuclear reactors churn out enough electricity to power nearly a million homes. The Turkey Point plant is licensed to continue doing so until at least 2032. At some point after that, if you believe the direst government projections, a good part of the low-lying site could be underwater. So could at least 13 other U.S. nuclear plants, as the world’s seas continue to rise. (See maps below.) Their vulnerability, and that of many others, raises serious questions for the future…’
‘The role of the magic tradition in the inception of science is complex but to present the two as antithetical is wrong. They were in many respects mutually supportive and even hard to distinguish. Magic as an intellectual endeavour can be seen as largely sober and systematic. Even the tricksier “popular” magic of the showman or mountebank was closely allied to practical technologies and mechanical skill. And if it had a tendency to patch together ad hoc explanations for puzzling phenomena, magic wasn’t doing much more than modern science continues to do; what has changed is the rigour with which such “explanations” are now scrutinised.
As historian William Eamon has argued, Renaissance “natural magic” was “the science that attempted to give rational, naturalistic explanations” for why things happened, and natural magicians, like modern scientists, believed that “nature teemed with hidden forces and powers that could be imitated, improved on, and exploited for human gain.” To its advocates, this art was the most potent means of dispensing with the supernatural intervention of demons and God in the day-to-day operation of nature…’
‘At the end of a long chain of “ifs” could be a revolution, the first clues to a theory of nature that goes beyond the so-called Standard Model, which has ruled physics for the last quarter-century.
It is, however, far too soon to shout “whale ahoy,” physicists both inside and outside CERN said, noting that the history of particle physics is rife with statistical flukes and anomalies that disappeared when more data was compiled…’
‘Donald Trump’s statement last week that he would like to ban all Muslims from entering the United States was met with resounding and predictable outrage from nearly all quarters of society, with many condemning the plan as racist, unconstitutional, or just plain wrong.
White supremacists, on the other hand, were thrilled.
Don Black, a former Klu Klux Klan leader who runs the white supremacist website Stormfront.org, said he noted a spike in visits to his site after Trump unveiled his proposed Muslim ban. Trump “has clearly been a benefit to us,” Black said, referring to his community of white supremacists.
“There’s an insurgency among our people that has been seething for decades that have felt intimidated and demoralized,” he added. “The Trump candidacy has changed all that.” ‘
‘They say lightning never strikes twice, although whoever “they” are might want to have a rethink. New research presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting suggests that one spot in a Venezuelan lake receives a bolt of lightning on 297 days out of 365 each year.Lake Maracaibo has long been known for its high levels of electrical activity, and earlier this year entered the Guinness Book of World Records as Earth’s lightning hotspot. However, the new data, presented by Rachel Albrecht of the University of Sao Paulo, pinpoints the exact spot on the lake that attracts the highest number of bolts, Live Science reports…’
How is ISIS able to use telecommunications and the Internet so effectively to market itself and recruit supporters, in a part of the world where infrastructure has been largely destroyed? Der Spiegel reports that European companies may be knowingly providing the organization’s Internet access by satellite dish and could cut it off easily.
Why do the satellite companies not take action to stop ISIS’ access? Building a satellite, launching it into orbit and operating the satellite are extremely costly, and the investment must be recouped quickly since the average operating life of a satellite is only 15 years. That might explain why European firms plead ignorance about the use of their products by terrorist groups. Further down the supply chain, the business is quite lucrative for Turkish resellers of European satellite technology who have a captive market in Syria and can set their prices quite high. They cautiously insist that they provide their equipment only to commercial partners and have no idea who the end users in Syria are. Some admit that, because modern satellite terminals are small, compact and mobile, illicit use cannot be ruled out. However, it is fairly clear that, in ISIS-controlled regions of Syria, it is the local ISIS leaders, or emirs, who decide who will be allowed Internet access.
It would be easy for satellite service operators — with one click, essentially — to eliminate access where they harbor suspicions. And, if they are suspicious, they have the capability to monitor the nature of the traffic going through their networks. It is possible, of course, that they do monitor this data and that they are sharing that information with intelligence services, a speculation upon which no one interviewed by Der Spiegel was willing to comment. But, if Western security services have been listening in for years, why has ISIS been able to grow and to plan its acts of terror, some of them in the West, with so little apparent hindrance for so long? (thanks, abby)
‘Christmas this year will see a full Moon for the first time in 38 years – and in an odd cosmic coincidence, the last time we had one on Christmas was the year Star Wars: A New Hope was released (1977). This year, of course, sees the return of the franchise with The Force Awakens…’
‘Old Book Illustrations is a search engine and browseable library of—you’ve guessed it!—the engraved illustrations and litho prints found in old books. Choose the type of illustrations you want to see: animals or people, landscapes, buildings, etc. Choose your favorite illustrators from a list: Gustave Doré, John Leech, Charles H. Bennett…[and] Find illustrations by the title of the book or periodical in which they were published: Æsop’s fables, Punch, L’Illustration…The scans are high-resolution (though it appears the scanned items are sometimes worse-for-wear) and most come with lots of details about their original creation and printing…’
‘We debunked dozens of fake photos this year, covering everything from Charles Manson’s baby photos to John Lennon’s skateboarding skills, and everything in between. It was another busy year for anyone spreading fake images on the internet…’
‘Use of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of ASD in children, even after considering maternal depression. Further research is needed to specifically assess the risk of ASD associated with antidepressant types and dosages during pregnancy.’
Unlike the ignorant rumor-mongering of the anti-vaccination crowd, this important finding appears to be evidence-based and is plausible, since SSRI exposure in utero might disrupt the formation of CNS circuitry.
‘Stephen Bassett is the only lobbyist of his kind in Washington DC. He’s working to get the government to admit that it has proof of extraterrestrials visiting our planet. “I want to see disclosure by the New Hampshire primary,” says Bassett who has been working the issue for nearly two decades…’
‘In the wake of the Paris Climate Agreement, it is pretty shocking to see these photographs taken in the Shanxi province in Northern China. Shanxi is the leading producer of coal in the most populated country in the world, with about 260 billion metric tons of coal deposits, a third of China’s total. The region produces more than 300 million metric tones of coal annually, and heavily depends on coal mining and burning coal for energy. That makes Shanxi is one of the most polluted areas in China…’
‘Doing your best to stay up with current events can often feel like drowning in a torrent of never ending bad news. With information coming at you in every direction, it’s easy to get burned out. Compassion and solidarity are important, but being an informed citizen doesn’t mean you always have to go down with the ship…’
Experts baffled to learn that 2 years olds are being prescribed psychiatric drugs
‘In 2014, US doctors wrote ~20,000 prescriptions for risperidone, quetiapine and other antipsychotics for children under the age of two; a cohort on whom these drugs have never been tested and for whom there is no on-label usage. The NYT spoke to “a dozen experts in child psychiatry and neurology” and not one of them could explain why anyone would prescribe these meds to small children. Some hypothesized that the drugs were actually intended for an uninsured or underinsured parent, but at least some parents report visiting their family doctors for help with toddlers’ tantrums, sleep problem or lethargy and coming out with a scrip for powerful antipsychotic meds that caused disturbing side-effects in their kids. They say that their doctors didn’t warn them of these effects, nor advise them that the use was untested.’
‘The dark power of words has become the defining feature of Mr. Trump’s bid for the White House to a degree rarely seen in modern politics, as he forgoes the usual campaign trappings — policy, endorsements, commercials, donations — and instead relies on potent language to connect with, and often stoke, the fears and grievances of Americans.
The New York Times analyzed every public utterance by Mr. Trump over the past week from rallies, speeches, interviews and news conferences to explore the leading candidate’s hold on the Republican electorate for the past five months. The transcriptions yielded 95,000 words and several powerful patterns, demonstrating how Mr. Trump has built one of the most surprising political movements in decades and, historians say, echoing the appeals of some demagogues of the past century’
‘…It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.
Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not. Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.
It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens…’
‘It’s difficult to ignore the impacts of climate change. Especially when Barrow, Alaska, a town that sits at the top of the world, just above the Arctic Circle, was warmer than the California city of Alturas. On Sunday morning, the National Weather Service for Sacramento tweeted that the Northern California city of Alturas was witnessing below-freezing temperatures of minus 3 degrees Fahrenheit while Barrow’s was at a balmy 3 degrees…’
‘On the Wednesday of the shooting in San Bernadino, only a few hours before the event took place, doctors went to Capitol Hill asking Congress to end the ban on gun violence research. They presented a petition signed by over 2,000 doctors nationwide, protesting a 1996 ban that prevents the Center For Disease Control from studying gun violence.
The ban was made after a CDC-funded study revealed that having a gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide and suicide. The NRA convinced Congress that the CDC was using its power to advocate gun control, and Congress quickly cut funding for gun-related research. It wasn’t exactly a ban on all research, per se, but the amendment was worded in such a confusing and vague way that no one knew for certain what was permitted. This created a climate of fear and intimidation with CDC researchers, with “no federal employee was willing to risk his or her career or the agency’s funding to find out” if they could study gun violence…’