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NOT JUST `AULD LANG SYNE' MULTICULTURAL CITY MEANS VARIED NEW YEAR RITUALS.

Byline: Rachel Uranga Staff Writer

Forget popping champagne and making a resolution - Mexican-born Natalia Garduno welcomes the new year by wearing red underwear. Chinese-born Jack Chen isn't even celebrating New Year's Day until month's end. And Japanese-born Hirokazu Kosaka gets ready for the big day by polishing up his archery set.

In Los Angeles - where one-third of the city is foreign-born and more than a hundred languages are spoken - there are as many ways to ring in the new year as there are cultures to celebrate it.

``Human beings, regardless of their culture, mark the new year with ritual,'' said Sabina Magliocco, associate professor of anthropology at California State University, Northridge. ``No matter when you celebrate the new year, regardless of the religion, beliefs surrounding the new year will be similar ... What you do New Year's across cultures is prognostication, try to tell the future.''

Across the city - from living rooms to churches - Angelenos are welcoming 2006 with prayers and promises. The more traditional American set pop the champagne cork, hug other party revelers or count down with the television. But for many immigrants and their kin still tied to the ways of their homeland, old traditions reign.

Many will invoke some of the same universal symbols revolving around seed-based foods - a sign of fertility and plenty - or new clothes, symbolic of new beginnings.

Instead of new clothes worn by Italians and other Northern Europeans, Brazilians like Oak Park resident Georgia Maria Ferriera dress completely in white as a sign of purity for the new year.

Chinese like Chen give red envelopes, often containing money, to children to bring luck and prosperity during the Lunar New Year on Jan. 29. Japanese-born Angelenos like Kosaka might shoot an arrow for purity today to mark the new year. He's joining a dozen of his friends in Little Tokyo for the ritual. And Indian Hindus like Saidish Shukla perform a fire ceremony asking the gods for protection and peace.

Mexico City-born Garduno said she can't remember the last year she didn't wear a new pair of red underwear so that the new year would bring love. Or a year she didn't eat 12 grapes - for luck every month of the new year. And she doesn't recall a time when her mother did not sweep the floors, pushing all the dust outside the door.

``It's a tradition in my family that we always keep,'' said the co-host of ``Buscando Amor,'' a Spanish-language matchmaking show. ``Since I was a kid I have done these things. I believe in this.''

This year, the 26-year-old Burbank resident said she's adding on to those traditions as she spends New Year's Day with her Dominican boyfriend - in part thanks to those red underwear she got last year - in his homeland.

``My boyfriend tells me that for New Year's Eve, they take a suitcase outside, and for the new year, they walk back in with it,'' she said.

In Northridge, Shukla, a 31-year-old Hindu priest, celebrated the Hindu new year on Nov. 2 by sprinkling a mixture of herbs, including sandalwood, mango leaves and nagarmotha, into a fire pit, adding rice and sugar.

Shukla, who has been in the United States for the last six years, said that although tradition tells him to give his offerings in November, living in the San Fernando Valley necessitates another tradition.

``So many people don't know about this, so we repeat this for the New Year here,'' Shukla said. He purchases a ready-made pack of traditional herbs at a nearby Indian supermarket and at 10 a.m. today he will repeat the fire ritual to summon the gods.

``We offer this to please God, to take his pleasing and to make more strong the divine powers, and it helps us,'' he said. ``It means a new beginning, a new calendar, a new year.''

In the United States, like most Northern European countries and Latin America, New Year's is celebrated on Jan. 1. The holiday is based on the Gregorian calendar first introduced by Pope Gregory XVIII in 1582.

And though it was meant to align seasonal patterns with the calendar in most of Europe, not everybody caught on quickly. In many rural areas where the new year was commemorated on April 1, many continued celebrating it in the middle of the year. So was born April Fools' Day.

Yet most of the rest of the world and non-Christian religions mark the new year based on a revolving calendar. Many of the celebrations have religious significance.

The Islamic new year is called ``Muhharam'' and is usually an understated occasion, little celebrated. It falls this year on Jan. 31 and marks the day the prophet Muhammad created the first Islamic state. Hindus mark ``Diwali,'' a day to commemorate the forces of good over evil. And Persians celebrate ``Nawrooz,'' the day of the spring equinox.

Iranian-born Bijan Khalili - who has lived in the United States for more than two decades - calls the Persian new year one of the most important holidays and a way to maintain his culture. So important is it to him that he wanted to make sure other Persians knew when to celebrate the holiday, so he created a Web site, iraniannewyear.com, that provides the time the new year begins in dozens of cities around the world.

``The Internet and new technology helps immigrants to maintain the good part of their culture and one of them, of course, for Iranians and Persians is the new year.''

German-born Hans Eberhard said even though he still sings German folk songs on New Year's or ``Sylvester,'' named after the feast day of St. Sylvester, he no longer practices the long-held tradition of dropping hot lead into water, as many Germans do.

``I have had to try and stay away from that. It's not safe for kids to play with hot lead, you know.''

Rachel Uranga, (818) 713-3741

rachel.uranga(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Satish Shukla, a Hindu priest, decorates deities on Saturday in preparation for a New Year's Day ceremony at the Valley Hindu Temple in Northridge. Various cultures across the Valley observe unique New Year's traditions.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer

(2 -- color) Hirokazu Kosaka gets ready Friday for New Year's Day by practicing his archery. Japanese-born Kosaka will shoot the traditional first arrow of the year during a Japanese New Year's celebration today.

(3) Hirokazu Kosaka is joining a dozen of his friends in Little Tokyo for the ritual New Year's shooting of the arrow, which symbolizes purity.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:1093
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