A New Flavor To Age Old Celebrations: New Year’s Celebration Facts
While we call it New Year Celebrations, but many of festivities associated with this globally celebrated moment have trickled down generations and still form a part of the traditions
The First Recorded New Year Celebration
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 honor Janus, the month’s namesake and god of beginnings.
Who gets to celebrate the New Year first every year
The first spot to celebrate the start of the New Year will be Kiritimati on Christmas Island, ringing in the New Year at 5AM EST on Dec. 31. Sydney, Tokyo and London and then New York and at the end Pago Pago in American Samoa welcomes the New Year at 6AM EST on Jan. 1
The Famous New Year’s Resolution
- It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s resolutions, and people all over the world have been making ( and breaking ) them ever since
- The early Christians believed the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself in the new year.
- The most common New Year’s resolution is losing weight. Other popular resolutions include exercising more, quitting smoking, saving money, and getting a better job or education.
The New Year’s Celebration with Food & Sweets
The holiday season is known for its sweets, and New Year’s is no exception.
- It’s a custom in some countries, like Mexico and Greece, to hide a prize inside of a New Year’s cake—whoever finds it in their slice is guaranteed good luck in the year ahead.
- In Sweden and Norway, people take part in a similar tradition in which an almond is hidden in rice pudding.
- Honey-drenched treats are popular in Italy, to evoke a “sweet” new year
- Ring-shaped donuts (to represent coming full circle) are customary in Poland and Hungary.
- Celebrants in Spain eat 12 grapes at midnight to ensure a fruitful year ahead, a tradition that began as a solution to a grape surplus in 1909. (The custom stuck and then spread to Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.) Each grape corresponds with a single month in the upcoming year: a sour second grape, for example, might foretell a bumpy February. The goal for most grape eaters is to swallow all 12 before the stroke of midnight.
- Cabbage, collards, kale and chard are eaten on New Year’s Eve in much of the American South. Since green leaves look like money, the tradition holds that the more greens a person eats, the more economic success he or she will experience in the year to come. Legumes are also consumed with financial fortune in mind, as beans, peas and lentils look like coins and swell when cooked. In Brazil, for example, the first meal of the New Year is often lentil soup or lentils and rice.
New Year Celebration with Drinks
The New Year’s drink of choice is arguably Champagne
- Over 300 million bottles of it are produced annually from the strictly defined Champagne region, located 90 miles northeast of Paris.
- While wine has been produced in Champagne for 2,000 years, the bubbly stuff can be traced back to the 17th century, when the cork, which captured fermentation gases, was developed.
- Despite popular belief, Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon did not invent Champagne. However, the legendary cleric did make several crucial contributions to the drink’s development and production.
Tradition of Kissing On New Year
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.
- The superstition doesn’t just apply to singles—if a couple ringing in the new year together doesn’t lock lips, then the future of their relationship might not be all that bright.
New Year Fireworks
Noisemaking and fireworks on New Year’s eve is believed to have originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck. The Chinese are credited with inventing fireworks and use them to spectacular effect in their New Year’s celebrations.
New Year’s Celebrations at New York’s Times Square ball drop
- When fireworks were banned in 1907—just three years after the first New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square—officials lowered a ball from a flagpole to signal the end of one year and the start of another.
- In 1907, the New Year’s orb was composed of iron and wood and weighed 700 pounds. Today’s ball contains 32,256 LED lights and 2,668 crystals, tipping the scale at 11,875 pounds.
- This year, the Waterford crystal ball will have 288 new crystal panels to replace the old ones, with doves chiseled into them to mark the theme “Let There Be Peace.” An estimated 1 billion people worldwide are expected to watch the Times Square ball drop
Some other interesting ways of New Year’s Celebrations
- Thousands of spectators gather in Stonehaven, Scotland each New Year’s Eve to watch the village’s men swing blazing fireballs over their heads as they parade the streets. The ancient event is thought to encourage a pure and sun-filled year.
- In Mexico and South American countries including Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, it’s customary to ring in the New Year by sporting special underpants: red if you’re looking for love and yellow if you’re after money.
- In the Philippines, people believe that wearing polka dots—on their underwear or elsewhere—ensures a promising year ahead.
- In Oshogatsu (Japan) the new year is the most important holiday in Japan, and is a symbol of renewal. In December, various Bonenkai or “forget-the-year parties” are held to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a new beginning. Misunderstandings and grudges are forgiven and houses are scrubbed. At midnight on Dec. 31, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, in a effort to expel 108 types of human weakness. New Year’s day itself is a day of joy and no work is to be done. Children receive otoshidamas, small gifts with money inside. Sending New Year’s cards is a popular tradition—if postmarked by a certain date, the Japanese post office guarantees delivery of all New Year’s cards on Jan. 1.
- Hogmanay (Scotland) is the home of Hogmanay (hog-mah-NAY), the rousing Scottish New Year’s celebration (the origins of the name are obscure). One of the traditions is “first-footing.” Shortly after midnight on New Year’s eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. Traditionally, First foots used to bring along a gift of coal for the fire, or shortbread. It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration is the largest in the country, and consists of an all-night street party (visit their Hagmanay website here).
- The most commonly sung song for English-speakers on New Year’s eve, “Auld Lang Syne” is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area of Scotland, Burns’s homeland. It is often remarked that “Auld Lang Syne” is one of the most popular songs that nobody knows the lyrics to. “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates as “old long since” and means “times gone by.” The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness, “For auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet.”
- Not everyone celebrates New Year’s on January 1. Chinese New Year, for example, begins on the first day of the lunar calendar, which usually falls in either late January or early February. During this time, it is customary for each family to thoroughly cleanse the house in an effort to sweep away ill fortune, to eat Chinese delicacies such as “nian gao,” or sticky rice, and to end the night with firecrackers. Red paper envelopes full of money are also distributed to the children at this time—one of the more popular traditions.
- Some people believe that breaking anything on New Year’s Day foreshadows a year of other broken things, like friendships and marriages. Many cultures also make sure to not serve any form of fowl on that day because it means the family will have to “scratch out” a living for the rest of the year. Instead, 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.
- “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”, which started with a couple of cameras and skeleton crew in 1972, has grown to become the most-watched New Year’s Eve broadcast in the world. In the first “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” without the legend himself, ABC will honor the American icon with a tribute by celebrating his life (1929-2012). Performers include Neon Trees and Carly Rae Jepsen in New York, and Flo Rida, Justin Bieber, Ellie Goulding and Jason Aldean in Los Angeles, with Ryan Seacrest as the show’s new host.
- Most hospitals in the U.S. do reward the first baby born on New Year’s Day with diapers, blankets, clothing or gift certificates donated by local businesses. Whether they win the prize or not, any baby born on Jan. 1 is considered lucky, a distinction enjoyed by author J.D. Salinger (left) and American flag designer Betsy Ross.