Moments before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, Lara Turgay and her sister will run to the bathroom with new red underwear in hand, just as they’ve done most years since they were teenagers in Turkey.“You want to welcome the new year wearing your new underwear,” said Turgay, who now owns a cafe in Washington, D.C. “It’s a tradition in Turkey.” For manyAmericans, New Year’s Eve rituals are as familiar as childhood lullabies: Watch the ball drop on TV, toast champagne, promise this will be the year you finally get in shape.But some people avoid all that, choosing to welcome the new year with traditions of their own.
Whether they’re cultural or personal, tongue-in-cheek or serious, they’re ways to reflect on the past year and to celebrate the coming one.
Bittleston, a Brooklyn artist, grew up in England celebrating the new
year the way his father’s German ancestors often did: with molten lead.
On Dec. 31, Bittleston and
the other children in his southern English town gathered around the
stovetop and placed chunks of lead in a pot of boiling water.
The lead melted easily,
turning into bizarre shapes, and therein liesthe fun: You can learn
what the coming year has in store for you by what you see in the
“If it looks like a dragon,
maybe you’ll see a dragon or be a dragon in a play,” Bittleston said.
“If it looked like a house, maybe we’d move into a new house.”
Lead pouring is still done
as a New Year’s ritual in Germany, where it’s called Bleigiessen. But
the small Brooklyn apartment where Bittleston now lives isn’t conducive
to pouring lead, so he has modified the tradition to keep it alive. Now
on New Year’s Eve, he makes abstract paintings by splattering ink on
“I make 12 paintings so I
know what each month will bring,” he said. “It’s not that I really
believe it anymore. I like the continuity of it – it’s part ofmy
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