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Need A New Year's Ritual? We Have Some Ideas

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Looking back on the year's biggest stories is a ritual in the news business. Others have their own year-end rituals.

(SOUNDBITE OF GONG)

DEBORAH CLEARWATERS: We follow a Japanese tradition to ring in the new year with this temple bell.

INSKEEP: Deborah Clearwaters works for the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. Every New Year's Eve, they haul out a giant, centuries-old bell and grant an exception to the do-not-touch rule. Museum patrons can whack that bell, which is said to wash away sins.

CLEARWATERS: So the idea is that by ringing the bell and by being within earshot, that each being is purified of misdeeds and can begin the new year with sort of a clean slate.

INSKEEP: And you just heard it ring, so you're good. Many cultures have year-end customs like cleaning your house, wearing all white, burning effigies or eating round foods to symbolize the year coming full-circle. Then there are those bracing New Year's challenges, like a plunge into the freezing Irish Sea.

DAVID COLLISTER: The last time I did it, it was the coldest New Year's Day for 30 years.

INSKEEP: David Collister is a veteran of these dips off the Isle of Man. Incidentally he's also a leading member of the local Ale Drinkers Society. That's their official name - really. The group leads a morning leap off the pier to raise money for charity and to shake off hangovers.

COLLISTER: It clears their heads quite quickly, apparently. (Laughter).

INSKEEP: I imagine so. Some people who prefer warmer climes, Art Spander among them.

ART SPANDER: I've gone to 61 straight Rose Bowl games, and I'll be going to my 62nd in a row.

INSKEEP: His first job was selling programs in the Pasadena Stadium. Spander went on to become a sports writer, and he's covered every game since. He's savored each one, blimps overhead, parade watchers filling the stands and the sun setting over the mountains.

SPANDER: In a changing world, maybe, you sort of look and try to attach yourself to situations or events that bring back the good old days. And in a way, the Rose Bowl always does.

INSKEEP: Things are not quite the same, though. The Rose Bowl is hosting the first-ever college football playoff tomorrow. So here's to the good old days and to new traditions ahead. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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