HAVANA, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- To ensure good fortune, happiness and well-being, Cubans have an eclectic collection of traditions to celebrate the New Year, which reflect the island's mix of European, African, Anglo-Saxon, Caribbean and Asian heritages.
Throwing a bucket of water out the front door or from a balcony at the stroke of midnight is the most widespread tradition, a cleansing ritual for the New Year.
Another tradition calls for walking around the neighborhood with a suitcase to ensure that the coming year brings travel opportunities.
In rural villages, especially in central Cuba, locals set fire to effigies made of straw and rags as a way to get rid of the past and make way for the new.
Throughout many cultures, burning is a purification rite used to ward off bad luck or vibes, and transition to a new beginning.
In recent years several imported traditions have taken hold, including eating 12 grapes at midnight for each month of the New Year, as well as wearing yellow or red underwear to attract prosperity and romance.
"We are preparing a meal with our traditional dishes as all our family will come together to celebrate the arrival of 2019," said Ana Elia Rosales, a 52-year-old teacher.
Rosales was preparing roasted pork marinated with "mojo," a blend of sour orange or lemon, oil and garlic, accompanied by typical side dishes, such as "Moros y Cristianos" (or Moors and Christians, what Cubans call white rice with black beans), boiled yucca (cassava), fried sweet bananas, and a tossed salad of lettuces, tomatoes, cabbages and onions.
New Year's Eve dinner typically ends with seasonal desserts like homemade custard or almond nougat, also known as turron, a Spanish-style sweet that is popular throughout Latin America.
The New Year coincides with the anniversary of the triumph of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, so the date takes on a special meaning here, with popular festivals across the country drawing thousands of visitors.
The year of 2018 saw significant developments in the country that will remain in the collective memory for years to come, and the New Year is a time for Cubans to make a fresh start and set new objectives.
"Something that we will never lose is the enthusiasm to pursue new goals," Aristides Alayo told Xinhua.
"It's important to have good health, prosperity and good luck in the coming year, which is what we all hope for," he said.