Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Nonsense

Valerie Peterson and Emmanuel Pierre have compiled a list of different rituals people celebrate to bring in the New Year. They all have to do with the concept of luck which, as mathematician Chip Denman once observed, is "probability taken personally."

For example, they cite:

  • South Americans who would like to travel in the coming 12 months walk around their house with a suitcase
  • In parts of Switzerland, people allow a drop of cream to hit the floor, to ensure overflowing abundance in the coming year
  • Many Filipinos wear new clothes with deep pockets, which they fill with coins and fresh bills and shake noisily to attract prosperity
  • Venezuelans give each other yellow underwear to wear into the new year for good luck

Pardon my skepticism, but this is nonsense, pure and simple. People buy into it because the world is far too full of irrational beliefs like these. It is incumbent upon media outlets -- like the New York Times, which printed the list complete with illustrations -- to make that clear.

We don't affect our future by wishing, hoping, and parading around like brainless losers. We do it by our positive actions, hard work, and by using reason to overcome obstacles and embrace opportunities.

Let that reminder become a New Year's tradition, and celebrate that with a slideshow.