I’m burning a calendar this New Year’s Eve in hopes of a better year

One woman looks to the past in order to find of a happier future
By Angely Mercado  Published on 12/26/2018 at 10:30 AM EST
Would you try an old ritual if it was supposed to bring you better fortune in the new year?

I usually spend New Year’s Eve trying to avoid any and all festivities, since the holiday season makes me feel drained, and a bit lonely. But this year, I’m going to lean on cultural tradition in hopes of improving my 2019. This New Year’s Eve, I’m burning a calendar.

I won’t be burning one out of rage or anything like that. I’m also not going to turn it into a spectacle, making a huge show and dancing around a calendar that’s up in flames. I just want to burn one because I can, and because it’s family tradition.

My dad grew up in the mountains of rural Puerto Rico burning calendars during the feast of San Blas during February. He also spent all of Dia de los Difuntos (a variation on Day of the Dead) sleeping in shifts with his siblings, as they kept candles, which covered a special tablet, lit all night long. His childhood stories are filled with rituals that gave moments in his life structure. Most things had a beginning and an end, as well as an action to will things into existence.

“It gave us something to do,” my dad shrugged when I asked him about it. “We lived in a mountain so we had to keep stuff interesting I guess.”

He also set out grass for Three Kings Day in early January in hopes of receiving extra gifts, and he encouraged us to do something similar as kids. It was fun, but I grew out of it soon after I tried to stay up late one night and couldn’t find any camels roaming through my room. My favorite cultural tidbit from my dad was also hearing that he’d see neighbors throwing their bins of trash over the side of their balconies or windows. I asked him what that was for.

“To get rid of the trash in your life, so that it’s a better year,” he told me.

I asked him if he ever did that. He replied that superstitions were weird. But I’ve started saving some paper scraps from my room’s waste bin, and I’ll see how I can throw them off something without littering too much. Maybe it’ll work just the same if I keep all the trash in the bag, throw it out a window, go out to grab the bag and then go and recycle it. I hope it’s not a windy New Year’s Eve this year…

I’ve seen Puerto Rican celebrities like Residente post a photo on his Instagram of a straw figurine that he was about to burn. It was captioned something like “quemando el ano viejo” or burning the old year. It was as if they were getting rid of all the bad juju from the last year. Kill off the bad from the old year. Purify it with fire and then will good thoughts into the universe and something good might just happen.

I’m not the only one who looks to the past in hope of a better future. A few of my friends wear underwear in a specific color in hopes of it bringing good luck. Another friend of mine told me that every year his mother would sweep lentils and dollar bills around their apartment during New Years.

“I check my pockets weeks later and I keep finding these damn lentils, but not any money,” he always says.

My mother isn’t big on superstition. She says God gives me all the luck I have. So one year I swept up money and beans in the kitchen while she was taking a shower. Just to try it. I also walked in circles with a suitcase in my basement in hopes of traveling more. I still haven’t traveled, due to lack of money, but I can hope. Maybe I’ll draw a dollar sign on the little paper man just in case it’ll bring me more money in 2019. Maybe I’ll put some money and a shoe into the suitcase to make sure that I push my luck in the right direction.

Another friend from high school used to talk about how her aunt would set up bowls of 12 grapes. One dozen for each member of the family, one grape for each month of the year. And instead of getting drinks to toast with at the stroke of midnight, you celebrate with grapes. A quick Google search showed me that this tradition originated in Spain, even though the friend who does this is from an Ecuadorian family. She never promised that scarfing down 12 grapes has worked, but this year, I’m willing to give it somewhat of a try. Maybe I’ll start with six grapes. And some wine, it’ll technically be a dozen grapes. Or several dozen.

I want a clean start. And I want better luck, and a better work/life balance for the new year. And a living wage. And hopefully an actual full-time job with some sort of benefits. Paid time off and less anxiety would be nice.

I still have a planner from 2016 that I might want to burn. I could tear the pages out one by one and feed them to a flame stove, or make a fire in a backyard and throw the whole thing in.

I can say adios to last year. And I’ll await the new year with open arms for the first time in a while. If anything, I’m hoping the rituals will make that process a little bit more fun for me.

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