In my family, New Year's Eve is not about drunken revelry and glitzy parties. For us it's always been a family holiday, partly to avoid extortion by babysitter and maniacs on the road, but also because we actually enjoy hanging out and playing games. Somehow our menu evolved from appetizers of every variety--I seem to remember putting a stop to that after we all rolled around groaning from too many things fried and dipped in ranch dressing--to ethnic food. Usually it's Chinese takeout, but this year my intrepid mother actually ordered handmade tamales from Texas. (Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner was always tamales--it's a Texas thing. We had to give it up when we moved to Virginia, but we found several places that will ship fresh tamales and now we're trying them out with an eye to ordering for next year. Which I just realized sounds completely mental. Making them is completely out of the question. I'm convinced that tamale-making is a skill that has to be passed down within a family, and since we are not a tamale-making people, we are stuck buying ours from folks who know what they're doing. Making tamales is NOT for amateurs.)
Anyway, there's usually something chocolatey for dessert--a cheesecake sampler this year, although in years past we have been known simply to graze on boxes of Godiva that are still hanging around after Christmas. Then the rituals start. We don't wait for midnight to pop the corks on the fizzy drinks. There's prosecco for those who drink alcohol and something sparkly and festive for those who don't. This year we're trying sparkling pear juice. Once we all have bubbles up our noses, we move outside for the two main traditions. The first is a banishing ritual. We each secretly write down whatever we want to rid ourselves of in the coming year. Then we twist up the papers, drop them into a firebowl, and burn them to ash, which we sprinkle on the azaleas when its cold. The point of this is to set an intention to get rid of something we don't like. It can be about ourselves or it can be a situation, but it puts the universe on notice that we are ready to move on.
Once that is done, we move on to the money burying. This is supposed to be a custom from South America, but I'm not sure. I only know that it is widely done on a messageboard I frequent, and in the years I've been doing it, it has never failed. All you do is take a bit of cash--it can be as little as a dollar--and put it in a sealed plastic bag. (Everyone in the family should have their own. We drop in a slip of paper with our initials so we can keep them separate.) You dig a hole in your garden--for us it's a small spot near the front porch, but you can also use a potted plant. You put the bag of money inside the hole and say, "I am burying my poverty." This must be done before midnight. The next day--and it must be the next day--you dig it up saying, "I am unburying my wealth." Then you put the money aside and do not spend it. Keep it for a whole year, during which you will receive some unexpected money at some point. After the year is up, I donate my buried money to charity because I figure as long as it isn't benefitting ME, it's alright. And yes, the sight of your entire family digging in the cold, soggy garden on New Year's Eve is surprisingly hilarious.