SAN DIEGO, December 28, 2016 ― Celebrating the new year is the oldest and most observed holiday around the world.
Ancient Babylonians first celebrated the New Year over four thousand years ago. But they considered New Year’s Eve the night of the first new moon after the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring. This would put New Year’s Eve anywhere from March 21 to April 20. The beginning of spring is a time of planting new crops and births among animals, so it makes sense.
The Romans also observed the New Year at the beginning of spring, but various emperors kept messing with the Roman calendar and it got out of sync with the seasons. In 153 BC, the Roman senate declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year, but it didn’t stick until Julius Caesar created the Julian Calendar in 46 BC, which again fixed January 1 as the new year.
Caesar was also one of the first in recorded history to declare a New Year’s resolution. Caesar offered resolutions of good conduct to the God Janus, the god of beginnings and doorways whose two faces look both backward and forwards. The month of January is named after him.
During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church remained opposed to celebrating New Year’s Day. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.
But now that the Western world is in the swing of it, we have come up with plenty of traditions and superstitions that people insist upon to start their year off right.
Many people believe what you do the first date of the year affects the 364 days to follow. This is why people celebrate the first few minutes of the New Year at gatherings or parties with family and friends, so that you are surrounded by people who love you all year long.
Kissing those closest to you at midnight means your ties and affection will continue through the next year. Otherwise, you are doomed to a year of chilly relationships.
Many people enjoy a champagne toast at midnight. This is the modern interpretation of the Greek and Roman custom of pouring wine to be shared by all at celebrations from a common pitcher. The host would drink first to assure the wine was not poisoned, which was not uncommon and then invite his guests to drink.
Wine was often acidic, so a piece of burned bread was put into the pitcher to absorb the extra acid. This is where we get the term “toasting” today.
The singing of “Auld Lang Syne” is a recent tradition from Scotland. It was first published in 1796 after the death of its author, Robert Burns. The title means “Long ago” or “The good old days.”
People believe your first visitor after midnight on New Year’s Day will bring you either good or bad luck the rest of the year. A tall, dark-haired man is supposed to bring you the best luck, even better if he has a small gift like a loaf of bread. But you are in deep trouble if your first visitor is a blonde or redheaded woman. (I promise not to show up at your house January 1). Make sure a man crosses your threshold first before any woman. The first visitor should leave by a different door than he came in.
Your clothing choice on New Year’s Eve is thought to foster certain luck all year. Some believe wearing white from head to toe attracts positive spirits. Green clothing will attract good health. Wearing red underwear is said to bring love, and yellow underwear is supposed to bring wealth. On New Year’s Day, wearing new clothing will increase your prosperity including more new garments during the coming year.
But don’t do any laundry on New Year’s Day. According to superstition, it means a member of your family will die in the upcoming months. Some people take this so seriously they don’t wash dishes either so no one in their life is “washed away.”
Avoid breaking anything or crying on New Year’s Day lest it sets the tone for the year to follow.
While you may feel like sitting around watching football games all day, do something related to your work and make sure you are successful at it, even if you don’t go near your office. It will set the tone for professional success in the year to come. But refrain from a complicated or serious project, which is believed to be unlucky.
Put lots of food in your cupboards and refrigerator, and some money in every wallet in the house or they will stay bare all year. Throw absolutely nothing out, not even trash.
Let nothing leave your house the first day of the year.
At midnight, you are supposed to open all your doors and windows so the old year can leave and the New Year can come in with ease. Then your neighbors can hear you making a lot of noise at midnight, which is to scare away any evil spirits that might try to sneak in those wide open doors and windows, even Satan himself!
So it’s not just celebrating, it’s a preventative measure.
Among modern American traditions, the hottest spot in the nation to ring in the year is Times Square in New York City. Since 1904, parties have taken place there. The first time the Times Square Ball was dropped was 1907. The original version was made of iron and wood, and was decorated with 100 25-watt light bulbs. Today’s modern version is made of Waterford crystal and lit with 600 light bulbs.
On the West Coast, the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California is a must for hundreds of thousands of spectators to start their year off right. The first parade was staged in 1886 with carriages covered in flowers to celebrate the orange crop. Today, every float in the parade must have all surfaces covered with natural materials like flowers, nuts, leaves and spices.
Philadelphia residents enjoy their traditional Mummer’s Parade which features “associations,” groups that put together elaborate costumes and props. The parade formally began in 1901, but the tradition of going door to door to receive money and treats goes back to the Swedes, Germans, and British who settled the city.
Many other communities hold Polar Bear Swims on New Year’s Day, in which people take a brisk swim in frigid lakes, streams or ocean waters. Some say it’s fun, some like starting their year with a challenge, and others say it’s a bracing reminder that it is good to be alive as another new year arrives.
Copyright © 2014 by Falcon Valley Group
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