There seem to be a number of folktales associated with this time, including the tale of two sisters, one spoiled and one ill-treated. The badly treated sister is left at home on New Year’s Eve while her family goes to church. She cleans the house thoroughly, lights candles in all the rooms, and settles in with her bible. Elves come into the house and offer her gold and silver objects, and invite her to dance with them, but she keeps her eyes on the book, only raising them at dawn to praise God for the new day. At His name, the elves depart, leaving their bounty behind. The spoiled sister is jealous, and the next New Year’s Eve, she stays home but joins in the elves’ dance. She breaks her legs and goes out of her mind and the elves take their spoils with them.
While modern Icelanders don’t believe in elves, it’s still common to hold bonfires on New Year’s Eve, in keeping with the past tradition of the elves. And as if you needed it, you can always check out 12 Pictures + 7 Reasons Why You’ll Visit Iceland This Year.
While taking part in Matariki, you could also indulge your inner Lord of the Rings fan and check out 6 Locations For Tolkien Fans to See.
So think about Nian the next time you see red paper decorations at Chinese New Year! In China, there are various foods associated with Chinese New Year as well, or you could always try tangyuan, a Unique Dessert Worth Travelling For.
The folklore goes that a spirit appears in a pool in Wales on New Year’s Eve, which takes the form of a golden-haired maiden in a golden boat. One farmer had heard of the spirit’s beauty, and after desiring her to be his wife, he began making donations of bread and cheese to the lake. Finally, one New Year’s Eve, after giving the lake his best cheese and seven loaves of bread, the spirit appeared to wed him, bringing with her a dowry of cattle. However, she warned him if he struck her three times, she would leave him. The story is that at a baby’s birth, the spirit cried, making the husband angrily ask why she was making a fool of herself, to which she replied that the child was being born into a world of sin and wickedness, and the husband “pushed” her. At the child’s death, she laughed, saying it had left a world of hurt to be happy and good forever, and the husband again pushed her. At the marriage of a young woman to an old man, the spirit cried, saying the compact was made for gold and would result in misery. The husband pushed her for a third time, and she left him, taking her dowry of livestock with her, and the husband never saw her again.
Other versions have it that the spirit is an elf whose father bids the husband that she must never be touched with iron, least she be returned to her own and never allowed to walk on earth with her husband again. She accidentally bumps into iron on her horse’s stirrup one day and is spirited back to her father’s house, but comes up with a plan to still see her husband, which involves floating turf on a lake, upon which they both meet to converse until his death, W. Sikes writes.
For more tales about Wales, including just where Merlin is trapped until the end of time, you can check out 5 Tourist Sights and the Legends Behind Them.