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Happy New Year

31/12/2010

Volunteer Karin Jones is a regular contributor to “Lanruzh”, a local fashion magazine. She shared the article that appears in the December issue:

New Year’s Resolutions and Traditions

For a number of years, I have been very interested in improving myself. That is, I strive to be a better person, and have spent a lot of time reflecting on past events, behavior, how I react to situations and people, and try to consider how I can improve any of these things in the future.

This habit of mine is something I do on a fairly regular basis. However, the New Year is approaching, which is, in the United States, traditionally a time when people do such reflection, and resolve to change something. Common resolutions people in the United States make relate to losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more, and eating better. Some people determine that they want to get rid of their debt, and others want to improve their education. Some people decide they want to volunteer and help others.

Unfortunately, most people do not keep their “resolutions” for changes that they want to make in their lives, because saying you want to do something and actually making a plan for how to do it are two different things. Nonetheless, making resolutions has become a tradition for many Americans.

Resolutions are only one of many traditions we use to celebrate a New Year. Another is a Polar Bear Plunge, where a number of (in my opinion, crazy) people gather together and jump in a lake. This does not sound so crazy until you realize that they are called Polar Bear Plunges because the people who do them live in cold climates and have to cut through a lot of ice to get to the water in the lake. This is a tradition I have never cared to be a part of!

Of course, the best known New Year’s tradition in the United States is the dropping of the ball in Times Square, New York. It is associated with a very large party and is televised throughout the country. The ball is a large structure made of crystal with a lot of lights on it that slowly lowers during the last minute of the year, until it touches the bottom of the pole it is on. This event is witnessed in person by about a million people in the Times Square area, and about 100 million people in the United States watch it on television. This tradition goes back over a hundred years, which is not a lot in Europe, but in the United States, that is considered an old tradition!

But I live in Kirovograd now, and wonder what traditions are celebrated here. Because I arrived in Ukraine in late March, and in Kirovograd in mid-June, I have not experienced a Ukrainian holiday season. What I have seen so far is much the same of what I would see in the United States at this time – items out in the stores for decoration and eating. I’ve been told that people have parties (same as in the United States), go caroling and exchange gifts on New Year’s Eve. In other words, I have been told that New Year in Ukraine is celebrated in much the same way as Christmas is in the United States, because Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7.

I also have read that there is a speech from the President of Ukraine that is broadcast around Midnight, and I wonder how many people take time out of their merriment to watch his speech? In the United States, I cannot see people stopping a party to watch the President – he would choose another day to give a speech, when he is more likely to have an audience.

One thing that we do in the United States, you do in Ukraine, and I believe New Year’s celebrations all over the world have in common is the drinking of champagne. I wondered why this is true – why do we drink champagne at the New Year? I found one theory that states that the popping of the champagne cork when the bottle is opened signifies the start of the New Year. I could keep looking for other theories, but anyone who knows me (or has read my blog) knows how much I love champagne, so any reason to drink it works for me.

Whatever the New Year holds for me here in Kirovograd, I look forward to experiencing it and learning more about Ukrainian culture and customs. Happy New Year to everyone!

To find Lanruzh online, click here.

Happy New Year from all of us at the Window on America Center!

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