What is New Year's Eve: History, Activities and Facts
New Year’s Eve is one of the world’s most celebrated holidays, whether you’re a kid excited to stay up all night or an adult just trying to make it to midnight after a long day of work. But how did the tradition of New Year’s Eve begin — and why do we celebrate it the way we do?
Starting the New Year in January was partially done to honor the god Janus, for whom the month was named. Since Janus had two faces, he was able to look back into the past and forward into the future simultaneously, making him a great spokesperson for the holiday we celebrate today, Lifecarefhd cites.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated differently all around the world. Traditions range from eating 12 grapes at or before midnight, eating apples dipped in honey, or chowing down on a dish from the legume family such as beans or peas to bring good luck. Some cultures believe that eating any round shaped treat symbolizes ‘coming full circle’ and leads to good fortune.
ACTIVITIES IN NEW YEAR'S EVE
Make New Year's Resolutions
It wasn't all tinsel and tipples for good old Gram. Making resolutions is perhaps the most popular New Year's tradition, but previous generations in particular practiced the art of setting goals for the upcoming year, as said by Countryliving.
Decorate a New Year's Tree
Who says the fun has to end after Christmas? The tradition of the New Year's tree goes all the way back to the 1600s, and you can easily transition your Tannenbaum to suit the celebrations.
Eat New Year's Food
Yes, there are even New Year's Eve food traditions. Different cultures consider certain foods to be fortuitous for the New Year, especially when eaten right as the clock strikes 12. In Chili, it's lentils, while in Spain, it's 12 white grapes. In case you needed any excuse to indulge in doughnuts and pretzels, several cultures believe ring-shaped foods represent coming full circle. And on New Year's Day, the traditional Southern spread consists of black-eyed peas and collard greens (symbols for wealth—coins and green folding money, respectively), ham or pork (for prosperity), and cornbread (for gold). We love our Louisiana Hoppin' John recipe, which incorporates all three.
It's fitting that the first day of the new year would have some religious significance, even if it has nothing to do with the calendar resetting. Some Christian churches (particularly in African-American communities) host "Watch Night" services, a tradition tied to the Emancipation Proclamation. For Catholics, January 1st, or the Solemnity of Mary, is a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning they have to attend mass on New Year's Day. However, knowing that revelers will be out late the night before, many churches offer a vigil Mass option on New Year's Eve as well.
|Photo: River West Church|
Make Some Noise
There's a longstanding tradition of starting the new year off with a bang. Only, instead of shooting guns, as was common in the American colonies, Grandma and Grandpa blew noise horns, rang bells (a nod to church bells), and set off fireworks (a Chinese New Year custom).
Give a Gift
In the past, the gift giving season didn't stop at Christmas! Handing out gilded coins or nuts was an old Roman ritual, according to the The Old Farmer's Almanac, but you could also give eggs for fertility, a Persian practice. Just as in their first-footing tradition, the Scottish apparently also traded shortbread, coal, and silverware, while Egyptians' specialty was earthenware flasks.
Countdown and Kiss at Midnight
We know that people still do this, but the reasoning behind it bears repeating: "Kiss the person you hope to keep kissing," as the saying goes.
FUN FACTS ABOUT NEW YEAR'S EVE
As we’re about to ring in the New Year, here are some facts about New Year’s Eve to explain some of your existing traditions, and maybe inspire you to try some new ones, Westwatershotel said.
1. The song was traditionally sung on New Year’s, “Auld Lang Syne,” means “times gone by”.
2. Black-eyed peas, ham, and cabbage are considered good luck if you eat them on New Year’s Eve or Day because it is believed they will bring you money.
3. Lobster and chicken are considered bad luck because lobsters can move backward and chickens can scratch in reverse, so it is thought these foods could bring a reversal of fortune.
4. In Italy, people wear red underwear on New Year’s Day to bring good luck all year long. The tradition dates back to medieval times.
5. Time Square New Year’s Eve Ball was first dropped in 1907 after there was a fireworks ban. The original ball weighed 700 pounds and featured 100 25-watt bulbs. Much different to the ball we know today!
6. The earliest known New Year celebrations were in Mesopotamia and date back to 2000 B.C.
7. January is named after Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward. He is the god of beginnings, transitions, gates, doors, passages, and endings.
8. Ancient Persians gave New Year’s gifts of eggs, which symbolised productiveness.
9. The first recorded New Year’s celebration dates back 4,000 years to Babylon, when the first moon after the spring equinox marked a new year. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar created a calendar with Jan. 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honour Janus, the month’s namesake.
10. The tradition to kiss at midnight isn’t a recent invention. According to old English and German folklore, the first person you come across in the new year could set the tone for the next 12 months.
11. To ensure a year of good luck, firecrackers and noisemakers became tradition in order to scare away any remaining evil spirits and to ensure a brand new start.
New Year's Eve is the last day of the year and the day before New Year’s Day, which marks the start of a new year according to the Gregorian calendar. Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. It was adopted immediately in some areas of Europe but it was not used in various countries until even centuries later. For example, the United Kingdom and the United States started observing the Gregorian calendar in 1752, in which 11 days were dropped, according to timeanddate.
New Year’s Eve festivities can be traced back to celebrations in Europe that date back before Christianity spread. When many inhabitants in Europe were converted to Christianity, these festivals were merged with Christian beliefs and in time came to mark holidays such as the New Year’s Eve and New Year celebrations.
It is important to note that not all cultures follow the Gregorian calendar in observing New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For example the New Year in the Hindu, Chinese, Coptic, Jewish, Islamic calendars differ to that of the Gregorian calendar.
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