The New Year is one of the most celebrated occasions with different communities and countries having their own unique traditions to mark it.
It is often believed to be a sign of new beginnings; hence people welcome this change in the calendar in their own special way to ensure that all goes well throughout the year.
For instance, most Christians attend watchnight services and look forward to a new year, while revellers would spend their night getting sloppy drunk to wash the old year away, particularly if it was as tough and depressing as 2020.
“Since we have always attached January 1 as the first day of the New Year, many people have drawn a connection between their actions and what will happen in their lives in that entire year that’s whythey are extra careful on what happens on that day,” says sociologist Dr Justus Aungo.
William Omollo recalls his younger days going to the village with his parents during the New Year season and watching his grandfather perform rituals according to Luo customs.
“Every New Year, he used to demand the first meal be fresh-cut vegetables, eaten raw,” he recalls, adding that based on traditions, vegetables indicated new and pure natural life devoid of diseases.
In his grandfather’s view, New Year marked the beginning of new ideas and longevity, which could only be derived from nature. It’s the only day he took fresh cut vegetables.
The rest of the year, his grandmother used to prepare vegetables in a pot, store for close to a week, but garnishing it every day with sour milk and warming it.
Next, his grandfather would pour libation, most commonly wine or other alcoholic drinks and honey.
“The containers he used were special, and kept only for libation. The libation could be poured onto something of religious significance, such as an altar, which he had built in his small hut or into the earth.
Inside his hut, he’d prepare libation, then offer a prayer to his gods and burn incense. He’d come out, pour the rest of the in air and murmur some words.
Then he’d proceed by slaughtering a fat goat or sheep earmarked for offering. The animals’ blood would be poured, then the body skinned,” he says.
The intestines were not to be touched, only washed and burnt to ashes. Then the rest of the body would be barbecued for hours to ensure no blood was dripping.
They believed no animal should be eaten with fresh blood, as blood is a sign of life, and no one should eat life.
As the head of the family, his grandfather opened the gate early in the morning on the first day of the year.
This meant he opened for prosperity. He would call male family members only so that he could pray with them at the gate and bless them.
“At the gate, he was given a stool to sit on, and every male child within the home would come, pass by him and dip his hands on a calabash of water.
That was like a cleansing and blessing at the same time for new year,” William says.
Since sex plays a major role in the culture, on the first day of the year, all married male members of the family were instructed to “turn their backs” on their wives.
There are other lesser known New Year’s customs and superstitions. While most of them have been to set the pattern for the year, others are meant to attract good luck or ward off evil spirits.
For instance, shouting and making loud noises is meant to scare away evil spirits, and rain is a sign of blessings and washing away of the past troubles; a sign of newness. Those born on the date too are also believed to be lucky all their lives.
In other customs, nothing is taken out of the house not even garbage or trash as it is believed to be throwing away blessings.
Some people clean and scrub their houses to get rid of stale energies from the previous year.
In some communities, breaking things on New Year’s is a bad omen, just like crying as it sets the tone on how things will be for the rest of the year.
Even so, there are others who consider the New Year just another day.Brian Wathanga doesn’t believe so much in superstition,s but says the year must begin well.
“I keep my life simple. I don’t believe much in superstition, but in most times I can opt to be at home just chilling or with my pals,” he says
Tabitha Anyango also shares the same sentiments.
“I don’t believe in superstitions, but every new year, at exactly 12 midnight, my family and I read the bible and say a short prayer to ask God to guide us during the year,” she says