Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - On New Year's Eve in Puerto Vallarta, dinner is served late. Along with the usual fare, one is often served a small bowl of grapes, twelve of them. Each grape represents the coming months in the New Year and a separate wish is made while devouring them in unison of church bells ringing at midnight.
Lentils are served in a traditional soup, which represents economic abundance. Though it requires only a spoonful to observe the tradition, we have a hearty helping, considering how long the night is predicted to go on. We enter 2016 stuffing our faces, all but guaranteed the following year will bring riches beyond our wildest imaginings.
Before we head out into the busy Puerto Vallarta streets, we will sweep the old dirt out our front door so we are well prepared for the new dirt of the coming year, of which promises to be less. Considering the constant construction going on in our neighborhood, we aren't completely convinced of this guarantee.
Our favorite superstition is the lamb or sheep hanging from the front door. Perhaps you've purchased one of the fluffy little darlings from the young girls who vend them in the evenings on the beach and in bars and cafés.
Though the sheep give one a warm and fuzzy feeling, the origination of this custom isn't quite so attractive; intertwined cultures and rituals can become twisted. Passover, a Jewish celebration that actually takes place in the spring, commemorates liberation of the Israelites. It was customary to mark door posts of households with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb to avert the deadly spirit plagued upon all first born sons, causing it to Pass Over these families. When the Christ child was born, the evil and furious King Herod ordered all baby boys under the age of two to be murdered in hopes of including the Christ child in this carnage when Herod discovered he'd been tricked by the Three Wise Men.
Somehow traditions and folklore mingle and the eventuality becomes a religious symbol. This is how traditions and myths are born; depending on heathens such as us to sustain and contribute to their endurance. Happy New Year!
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