Tag Archives: South Africa

New Year’s: One Country’s Times Square is Another’s Burnt Straw Dummy Outside Your Home

New Year's Eve in Times Square, New York City

New Year's Eve in Times Square, New York City

Fun Facts About New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Many New Year’s traditions are similar, but some are different. Here are some interesting customs, past and present, around the world.

New Year's in Sydney, Australia

New Year's in Sydney, Australia

Australia: New Year’s is celebrated on January 1. This is a public holiday and many people spend it having picnics and camping on the beach. Their parties start on December 31. At midnight they start to make noise with whistles, rattles, car horns, and church bells to ring in the New Year.

Austria:
 New Year’s Eve is called Sylverterabend, which is the Eve of Saint Sylvester. they make a spiced punch in honor of the saint. Decorations and champagne are part of the celebration. Evil spirits of the old year are chased away by the firing of moroars, called boller. Midnight mass is attended and trumpets are blown from church towers at midnight, when people kiss each other.

Belgium: New Year’s Eve is called Sint Sylvester Vooranvond, or Saint Sylvester Eve. People throw parties and at midnight everyone kisses and exchanges good luck greetings. New Year’s Day is call Nieuwjaarrsdag – children write letters on decorated paper to their parents and god parents, and read the letter to them.

Traditional First Footing offerings

Traditional First Footing offerings

Great Britain: the custom of first footing is practiced. the first male visitor to the house, after midnight, is supposed to bring good luck. The man brings a gift like money, bread, or coal, to ensure the family will have plenty of these in the year to come. The first person must not be blond, red-haired, or a woman, as these are supposed to be bad luck. In London, crowds gather in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly circus to hear the chimes of London’s Big Ben as it announces the arrival of the New Year.

France: The French New Year is Jour des Etrennes, or Day of New Year’s Presents. Dinner parties are thrown for the entire family, where presents are exchanged.

Germany: People drop molten lead into cold water to tell the future from the shape it makes. A bit of food eaten on New Year’s Eve is left on their plate until after Midnight, as a way on ensuring a well stocked larder in the coming year.

Greece: January 1 is an important date in Greece because it is St. Basil’s Day, as well as the first day of the year. St. Basil was known for his kindness to children. Stories tell how he would come in the night and leave gifts for children in their shoes. People gather, have special meals and exchange gifts.

A Jack Straw scarecrow in Hungary

A Jack Straw scarecrow in Hungary

Hungary: In Hungary the people burn effigies, or a scapegoat known as “Jack Straw”. The scapegoat represents the evils and misfortunes of the past year. Burning the effigy is supposed to get rid of the bad luck.

India: The Indian New Year’s is started with a festival of lights called Diwali. Cards and gifts are exchanged and people finish off any uncompleted work.

Japan: Oshogatsu in an important time for foamy celebrations when all business are closed. To keep out evil spirits they hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses. The rope stands for happiness and good luck. When the New Year begins, the Japanese people begin to laugh, which is supposed to bring them good luck in the New Year.

Netherlands: People burn Christmas Trees in street bonfires and let fireworks ring in the New Year.

Pope Sylvester I

Pope Sylvester I

Poland: Known as St. Sylvester’s Eve., in honor of Pope Sylvester I. Legend is that Pope Sylvester foiled the plans of a dragon to devour the world in the year 1000.

Portugal: The Portuguese pick and eat twelve grapes from a bunch as the clock strikes twelve on New Year;s Eve. The twelve grapes ensure twelve happy months in the coming year.

Colorblind Santa? Nyet...it's Russia's Grandfather Frost

Colorblind Santa? Nyet...it's Russia's Grandfather Frost

Russia: Grandfather Frost, who wears a blue suit instead of Santa’s red, arrives on New year’s Eve with his bag of toys for the children.

Scotland: Night of the Candle. People prepare for New Year by cleaning their home and purifying it with a ritual or burning juniper branches carried through the home. The First Footer says that whoever the first person to set foot into your home on New Year’s Day decides the luck of the family for the coming year.

South Africa: The New Year is rung in with church bells ringing and gunshots being fired. On New year’s Day there is a carnival atmosphere.

South America: A dummy or straw person is ofter placed outside the home and burned at midnight

Eating twelve grapes in Spain, Portugal and Greece is said to ensure good luck for the coming year

Eating twelve grapes in Spain, Portugal and Greece is said to ensure good luck for the coming year

Spain: Everything, including theater productions and movies, is stopped at Midnight on New Year’s. The clock strikes midnight and everyone eats twelve grapes. They eat one grape for each toll to bring good luck for the next twelve months of the New Year. Sometimes the grapes are washed down with wine.

United States: The New Year is often rung in with festive dancing parties and meals. People kiss each other at midnight and wish each other a “Happy New Year”.

Wales: At around 3:00 to 4:00 am on New Year’s morning, the boys of the village go from house to house with an evergreen twig to sprinkle on the people and then each room of their house, to bring good luck. On New Year’s Day the children travel the neighborhood singing songs are are rewarded with coins and sweets.

Special thanks to AssociatedContent.com

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The Cullinan Diamond: The Sparkle in the English Crown Jewels and More

The Cullinan I, a.k.a. the "Star of Africa"

The Cullinan I, a.k.a. the "Star of Africa"

Fun Facts About the Cullinan Diamond

 

  • Sir Thomas Cullinan holding the rough, pre-cut diamond

    Sir Thomas Cullinan holding the rough, pre-cut diamond

    The giant Cullinan is one of the most famous and the largest diamond in the world. The Cullinan weighed a massive 3,106 carats as a rough diamond crystal. The rough diamond was 10 cm long, 6 cm high and 5 cm thick.

  • The Cullinan Diamond was named after Thomas Cullinan (later Sir Thomas) who was a South African businessman. Thomas Cullinan was a successful Johannesburg building contractor and amateur geologist. Thomas became interested in the area because of the alluvial diamonds that were being found in nearby stream.
  • The Cullinan diamond was discovered at the Premier Diamond Mine in 1905. Mr. Frederick Wells, the superintendent of the Premier Mine found the crystal when he was making a routine inspection of the mine, eighteen feet below the ground. Frederick Wells received 3,500 pounds as a reward.
  • The Cullinan was sold to the Transvaal government for £150,000 who presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday on November 9th, 1907.
  • King Edward VII entrusted Abraham and Joseph Asscher, of the famous Royal Asscher Diamond Company in Amsterdam, with cutting the giant stone which was finally finished in 1908.
  • The Asscher brothers studied the giant sized rough diamond for three months before making the final decision of where the diamond should be cut.
  • Joseph Asscher preparing to cut the Cullinan Diamond

    Joseph Asscher preparing to cut the Cullinan Diamond

    On February 10, 1908 Joseph Asscher prepared himself for the greatest responsibility of his life – the cleaving of the giant Cullinan rough diamond. The tension, pressure and stress on Joseph Asscher can hardly be imagined. He was responsible for cutting the biggest and most expensive diamond in the world and a mistake in this task would, literally, cost a fortune.

  • Joseph Asscher placed the cleaving blade at the prearranged point of the diamond and struck the blade with his hammer. To his horror the cleaving blade broke. Thankfully, the diamond was unharmed. A special, extra large, cleaving blade was obtained. The second attempt was understandably even more tense than the first. Failure was unthinkable. Joseph Asscher struck the rough diamond again but this time it split perfectly into three large sections. These sections were closely studied and then divided into nine principal diamonds and approximately 100 smaller ones.
  • Imperial State Crown

    Imperial State Crown

    The nine principal diamonds today are found in either in the British Regalia, the English Crown Jewels, or in the personal possession of the British Royal Family.

  • After cutting the giant rough Cullinan diamond the following stones were created each being given different numbers according to their diminishing weights. Facts and information about each of the diamonds are listed below together with details of their current mountings:
    • The Cullinan I aka “the Star of Africa” cut into a pear shape and weighing 530.20 carats is set in the Royal Sceptre
    • The Cullinan II in the center-front of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain was cut into a cushion shape and weighing 317.40 carats is mounted in the band of the Imperial State Crown
    • The Cullinan III (bottom) and Cullinan IV (top)

      The Cullinan III (bottom) and Cullinan IV (top)

      The Cullinan III is cut into a pear shape and weighing 94.40 carats is mounted in the finial (an ornament projecting as a round or oval shape ) of Queen Mary’s Crown. It can also be worn as a pendant-brooch

    • The Cullinan IV is set in the band of Queen Mary’s crown after being cut into a square cushion shape and weighing 63.60 carats. It can also be worn as a pendant-brooch
    • The Cullinan V was originally mounted in a brooch for Queen Mary but now used as a replacement for the Koh-i-Noor diamond which was used in a new crown made for Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) in 1937. It was cut into a heart shape and weighs 18.50 carats
    • The Cullinan VI is set in a diamond and emerald necklace was cut into a marquise shape and weighing 11.50 carats
    • The Cullinan VII is mounted as a pendant drop on a diamond brooch, cut into a marquise shape and weighing 8.80 carats
    • The Cullinan VIII was cut into a rectangular cushion and weighing 6.80 carats. It is mounted as the centre diamond on the same brooch as the Cullinan VII
    • The Cullinan IX

      The Cullinan IX

      The Cullinan IX was cut into a pear shape, weighing 4.39 carats and set in a ring.

  • The Premier Diamond mine in South Africa, where the Cullinan diamond was found, is situated on an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe. The pipe is a carrot-shaped volcanic neck originating from great depths within the Earth and is the largest in South Africa.
  • Diamonds are formed when extreme heat and extreme pressure cause carbon atoms to crystallize forming diamonds approximately ninety miles under the earth’s surface. Diamonds reach the surface of the earth via volcanic pipes, or channels.

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