This year I shall be in Paris for New Year’s Eve as I lead a London, Paris Rome Tour. Last year I was lucky enough to be in Edinburgh for the superb Hogmanay celebrations with some red-wigged colleagues and the friends of Balvenie. So, the city of light has much to live up to.
New Year in France is also known as the celebration of St. Sylvestre, given that December 31st is his feast day. Sylvestre was a 4thcentury Pope who died on New Year’s Eve. Celebrations in Paris tend to centre around a street party on the Champs Elysees and the terrific firework display around the Eiffel Tower. For my part, I plan to take the group somewhere along the river, perhaps close to the Pont Alexander III. In keeping with tradition I shall make sure I have plenty of Papillottes for everyone, these French candies make a pleasing ‘pop’ sound when opened and contain a joke written on the inside of the wrapper. The jokes are of varying quality – really not that funny at all if you don’t read French. Some sparkling wine for the adults and we will be all set to go.
Elsewhere in Europe, people will be enjoying traditional celebrations. In Madrid, revelers will attempt to eat one grape at each chime of midnight, the dozen grapes signalling twelve happy months ahead. In parts of Britain first footing is when the first guest at a house after midnight will bring gifts (traditionally coal for heat and bread for food). The ‘first-footer’ should be a young man to signify good health for the coming year.
In the Netherlands the Dutch will be burning Christmas trees, to purge the old year and in Italy the locals will eat the traditional New Year dish of lentils. Finally, in Greece, St Basil’s cake is made and a silver or gold coin is placed inside. It is believed that whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake is sure to be lucky for the next year.
All over the place fireworks will be, well, firing and I shall be looking for the French version of Auld Lang Syne. Have a great time wherever you are.