In the United Kingdom, there is a tradition called first footing, whereby a home’s first visitor on New Year’s Day is believed by many to bring either good or bad luck for the duration of that year. Allegedly, it is particularly lucky if that visitor is a tall, dark-haired man. While I obviously can’t visit each of you personally, I do want to wish all our readers and customers the best in 2007.
One of the fun and interesting things about operating an unparalleled global network is the glimpse it gives us of some truly unique New Year’s customs. For instance, in Puerto Rico at midnight on New Year’s Eve, children traditionally throw pails of water out the window to banish evil spirits from their homes. In Ireland, the custom is to walk in the front door of your house and out the back door at midnight for good luck. In Switzerland, many believe it is lucky to let a drop of cream land on the floor on New Year’s Day.
Food seems to play a big part in many cultures’ New Year’s traditions. In the southern United States, black-eyed peas are said to be lucky, while in many countries, cabbage — considered a representation of paper currency — is linked to prosperity. In Latin American countries like Chile and Brazil, lentils symbolize wealth and are eaten on New Year’s Day. In Spain, it is tradition to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight (each grape signifies a month in the coming year), while it is customary in France to eat pancakes for breakfast. In many cultures, circular foods such as pancakes are considered to be lucky, as they symbolize a full year’s cycle. So, just for this month, forget about the carbs and enjoy that bagel or doughnut. It is good luck, after all.
While I enjoy these foods as much as the next person, my favorite New Year’s custom has nothing to do with eating. In various cultures, it is customary on New Year’s Eve to carry a suitcase around your house, around the block, or up and down a flight of stairs. Legend has it that doing so will ensure that you travel safely and far in the coming year.
Of course, if you really want to travel far, and if all this talk about the new year makes you want to celebrate all over again, you may want to book an American Airlines flight to Shanghai, as the Chinese year 4705 begins on February 18. The Chinese year is divided into 12 months of either 29 or 30 days. Extra months are added to the calendar at regular intervals to adjust to the solar year, and years are arranged in cycles of 60. As you probably know, on the Chinese calendar, each year is named after one of 12 animals. At the moment, we are about to transition from the Year of the Dog to the Year of the Pig. The Chinese New Year is that country’s longest and most important celebration, and the festivities typically include fireworks, parades, and the Lantern Festival, in which thousands of lanterns light the way to the new year.
Wherever you are going today, I congratulate you for getting 2007 off to a flying start. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year. If you’re up in the air, chances are you’re either on your way to explore the world or going home, and, in my book, those are both reasons to celebrate. Wherever you’re traveling today, we’re working hard to help make your trip a success. Thank you for choosing American Airlines. We appreciate your business, and we look forward to seeing you onboard throughout 2007.
Happy travels, and happy New Year!
Gerard J. Arpey