A Clean Start

Off 71

by Victoria Landis

I love writing for the January issue. It’s a new year. An arbitrary date that really means nothing, yet it symbolizes a fresh beginning. The chance for everything to be washed clean, metaphorically speaking. We’ve been doing silly things in honor of the new year, ever since we invented calendars. Why should 2017 be any different? In honor of our being washed clean, starting anew, etc., let’s see how many of our planetary roommates celebrate.

First up – Throwing stuff away. In theory, I can see how getting rid of the old to make room for the new became a tradition. Somehow, the Italians embraced the idea a little too fervently, though, and began tossing old furniture out the window. One would imagine copious amounts of wine had something to do with it. Think about it. Okay, Maria and Antonio decide new chairs are in order. They want to get rid of the old nasty ones with 200 years’ worth of wear, sweat, wine, and god-knows-what-that-is stains from untold numbers of folks. Yeah, that would gross me out, too. Most people would simply carry them out the door. For some reason, on that particular New Year’s Eve, Maria and Antonio thought, Hey, let’s toss them from an upstairs window instead. With any luck, we’ll accidentally hit that annoying Fabrizio who’s been soused and camped out on the sidewalk for two days. Maybe they eliminated poor old Fabrizio, then all the neighbors agree it was a brilliant accident? And it caught on. That’s the best I can come up with. Honestly.

Not to be outdone, the South Africans apparently loved the Italian thing, so they go one better and earn bonus execution points for throwing old appliances out the windows. Do not get drunk and loiter under windows in Johannesburg, people.

Continuing with the destruction of property (and possibly people), the good citizens of Denmark have a strange belief that throwing old dishes at their friends’ front doors will bring luck. To whom, I’m not sure. But offhand, if I woke up on New Year’s Day with shattered china littering my stoop and cut marks in my door’s paint job, I’d be ticked off, but good.

Thailand has a bizarre way of cleansing for the new year. They throw buckets of water on anyone, anywhere. Water pistols the size of machine guns and hoses are also employed. No one is safe. Cars driving by with open windows? Target. Old ladies ambling by on the sidewalk? Target. You’re getting doused whether you like it or not. But the next part is the real puzzle. Step two is flinging talc at you until you look like you crawled through a white mud bog. How did this start?

In many countries, celebrants visit graveyards. Honoring ancestors. This, I understand. But some carry it too far and actually spend the night sleeping on the graves. I suppose if you’ve never seen a horror flick, you wouldn’t be creeped out by this, but for the rest of us? That would be a big, resounding hell no. One weird moan from a distant animal in the night, and I’d scramble over anything or anyone in my path. I’m pretty sure my ancestors wouldn’t approve of my accidentally crunching someone’s hand, foot, or head as I escaped.

Now we come to wardrobe choices. Especially in the unmentionables department. Yellow undies are all the rage in Venezuela to bring luck. Red underpants are supposed to bring romantic love in the new year. Green undies will lead to financial fortune. This might explain quite a bit in my life. I’m not sure I’ve ever owned private garments in any of those colors. So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong. Well, I’m correcting that immediately and will report back to you with my scientific results.


Rats. As usual, I’ve run out of space, just when I was getting warmed up. Happy New Year!

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