Maybe you’re asking yourselves what the title means. Well, it’s a greeting of the ancient Romans which was used from time to time during the whole year and especially on the New Year. Yes, they also celebrated New Year with some peculiarities. During the Roman Republic it was observed on the Ides of March, i.e. on March 15. While Julius Caesar established a new dating system, the so-called Julian calendar, according to which a New Year began in January. In both cases, the ancient Romans celebrated the new circle or ring of the year with noisy and lavish festivals dedicated to the ancient Roman deity Anna Perenna. The goddess’s name itself comes from the Latin per annum which stands for through the year.
And how exactly did the ancient Romans celebrate the New Year? It is supposed to have been a fest of the plebs. They gathered in a sacred grove along the main Roman road – Via Flaminia, which connected Rome to Rimini. At the first milestone on the road there was a small natural spring dedicated to Anna Perenna. It was the place where ancient New Year’s festivals were held. They looked like ours, i.e. people sang and danced, some of them drank excessively and even got drunk and very often there were some erotic elements in the celebrations. Or in other words, it could be likened to Woodstock. And during the whole joyful and cheerful celebration the participants greeted the rest with Annare pereannereque coomode or May you have a splendid year from the beginning to the end.
And how do we observe the New Year’s Eve nowadays? Or, actually, how do any of the Mediterranean islands and cities do it in present times?
Let me start with the island of St. John and his Knights Hospitaller – Malta. For the Maltese New Year is like Christmas. They observe it quietly and in a family atmosphere without any tumult and noisy feasts. Hotel restaurants finish at about 10pm and guests should find out an alternative. There are lots of pubs full of tourists along the promenade and in Valletta. But as a whole the streets are deserted and there aren’t crowds of native celebrants on the New Year’s Eve. If one wants to have an outdoor party in the street with live music, officially organized by the authorities and mayor, there is only one chance, i.e. to take a taxi and leave for one of the small towns/residential complexes near the capital.
Unlike the Maltese, the Italians in Sicily are real party people. For instance, the main squares in Catania are overcrowded with people waiting for the eve fests from noon. The restaurants, cafés and pizzerias are full of happy natives and foreigners alike. It’s a good idea to make a reservation at a restaurant in advance but if one doesn’t do it, they won’t remain dissatisfied and hungry at all because all of the places mentioned above will accommodate them for an Italian-style fast-food dinner at the bar. And at midnight the fun is great, the sky is illuminated by fireworks (by the way, be attentive with them) and all people in the streets (no matter natives, tourists and guests or immigrants) greet one another in their own languages, dance and sing together.
It’s high time I moved to Ellada. If one happens to travel for New Year’s celebrations, they should be prepared for huge and long-lasting fests together with the locals after midnight. Principally, the Greeks celebrate New Year at home with their families till midnight and after the best wishes and the usual cin-cin with their beloved ones, they go to have a party until the morning hours. That rule applies to both the mainland and Greek islands. That’s why if one wants to have a walk along the streets of the town of Rhodes on January 01, the whole city (and maybe the whole island) will be sleepy and the sea promenade as well as the centre will be deserted and only for them. 🙂 The few people one might meet will be extremely polite and will greet them with “Χρόνια Πολλά ” (“Xronia polla” or “I wish you to live a long life”). Just on the contrary, the capital Athens is awake even early in the morning and both locals and tourists conquer cafés and confectionaries trying to recover from the hard celebrations and lack of sleep.
It’s turn of the Island of Sun – Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot parts are nicely decorated and New Year’s spirit is everywhere. Santa Claus and Father Frost standing near the crystal blue water welcome the crowds of people in the streets. The island offers outdoor fests with much fun and music under the sky with numerous stars on it and close to the sea as well as indoor parties with boring and mincing ladies in long evening dresses and men in tailcoats. All hotels welcome their guests on the New Year’s Eve but the atmosphere is a bit crestfallen, not festive that much and even somehow depressing while the true Greek Cypriot party is outside in the street, discos and locals.
We are again in Southern Europe and in Southern Spain, in particular. The festive wave has grabbed Seville in Andalucía. As a matter of fact, the Spaniards are a little bit quieter than other European nations during the New Year’s period. It’s probably because they look forward to The Three Magic Kings. It doesn’t mean at all that the Spaniards are not party people. Just on the opposite, they are. They even have a very lovely tradition at midnight sharp when the New Year comes. They should eat 12 grapes and each of the grapes is dedicated to one wish they should make while eating it. Or in other words said, they eat 12 grapes, make 12 wishes, one for each month of the year. There is one condition here. They should eat each grape in the rhythm of a bell ring. If they don’t manage to do it, their wish will not come true. But if they do it, they will be lucky throughout the year and all their wishes will come true. It could be a great burden for inexperienced foreigners. So, please, be careful and try to not get choked with the grapes.