The History of New Years’ Celebration

January 1 represents the fresh start of a new year after a period of remembrance of the passing year, including on radio, television and in newspapers, which starts in early December in countries around the world. Publications have year-end articles that review the changes during the previous year. In some cases publications may set their entire year work alight in hope that the smoke emitted from the flame brings new life to the company. There are also articles on planned or expected changes in the coming year.

This day is traditionally a religious feast, but since the 1900s has also become an occasion to celebrate the night of December 31, called New Year’s Eve.

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Records show that around 2000 BC, the Babylonians began celebrating New Year’s on March 23, the beginning of spring. Although references show that they themselves had no written calendar. They had a regular festival going on that lasted for eleven days.

For Romans, New Year’s began on March 25 which was considered the beginning of spring. This lasted for a very long time until the egos of the emperors were so out of control, they kept changing the calendar until it no longer synchronized with the sun. In 153 BC the Roman senate declared January first the beginning of the New Year in order to set the calendar. But tampering continued until 46 BC when Julius Caesar established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar which established January 1 as the New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

Around 600BC, the Greeks began using a baby to signify the New Year and would pay homage to the god of Wine, Dionysus, parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. The “baby time” thing was brought to early America by the Germans.

At on point the Catholic Church condemned celebrating New Year’s, calling it “paganism.” Eventually, the masses won out as Christianity spread and the pagan celebrations became more accepted, and then later expected.

Western nations have been celebrating the New Year for about 400 Years in which we have developed the tradition of making resolutions. Though we think that our traditions seem pretty modern, we are not the first ones to start the tradition of having resolutions. The most popular resolution of early Babylonians was to return borrowed farm equipment.

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Here are some real traditions that make us look pretty simple:

  • Muslims celebrate the New Year by wearing new clothes.
  • In England, on the stroke of midnight, people open the back door to symbolize “letting the old year out”. It is also traditional to ask the first dark haired man you see to come through the front door carrying salt, coal and bread. This symbolizes that this year everyone will have enough money (salt), food (bread), and warmth (coal).
  • Southeast Asians release birds and turtles to assure themselves good luck in the twelve months ahead.
  • Hindus leave shrines next to their bed so they can see beautiful objects at the start of the New Year.
  • In Wales it is believed that you should pay off all debts before the New Year begins, since ending a year in debt means a whole new year of debt.
  • The Scots celebrate Hogmanay. The word comes from the name of an oat cake that was traditionally given out to children on New Year’s Eve. At midnight the “first footing” takes place; first person to set foot in a home at the New Year is believed to affect the fortunes of all who live there. Strangers are especially thought to bring good luck.
  • Japanese prepare rice cakes at a social event the week before the New Year and on New Year’s they give out colorful little envelopes with money in them, called otoshidama, to children.
  • Korean New Year called Seolnal is the first day of the lunar calendar. Koreans also celebrate solar New Year’s Day on January 1 each year, following the Gregorian Calendar. People get a day off that day while they have a minimum of three days off on Lunar New Year. People celebrate New Year’s Day by preparing food for the ancestors’ spirits, visiting ancestors’ graves, then playing Korean games such as Yutnol’i with families. Young children give respect to their parents, grandparents, relatives, and other elders by bowing down in a traditional way and are given good wishes and some money by the elders. Families enjoy the new years also by counting down until 12:00 a.m., which would be New Year’s Day.
  • Ethiopian New Year called Enqutatash. It is celebrated on September 11 or September 12 based on the leap year. Ethiopia uses its own ancient calendar. However some say it has connection with Julian calendar. The new year is the end of the summer season and where you see natural flowers every where in the country.
  • In Russia and the other 14 former republics of the Soviet Union, the celebration of Novi God is greeted by fireworks and drinking champagne. The New Year is considered a family celebration, with lavish food and gifts. In Moscow, the president of Russia counts down the final seconds of the “old year”, as it is traditionally called in Russia. The Kremlin’s landmark Spassky Clock Tower chimes in the new year and then the anthem starts. It is customary to make a wish while the Clock chimes. Old New Year is celebrated on January 14 (equivalent to January 1 in the “old style” Julian calendar. It isn’t the official holiday, but only after Old New Year do people take decorations and Christmas trees away.
  • In France, people concern much attention to the weather that day. They regard the weather as the prediction of that year: wind blowing east, fruit will yield; wind blowing west, fish and livestock will be bumper; wind blowing south, there will be good weather all year round and wind blowing north, there will be crop failure. People would like to toast for the new year and drink till January 3. They think that they can’t gain a beautiful year if they don’t drink up all the wine left last year.
  • In Spain, you should have 12 grapes at hand when the clock strikes 12 at midnight. For each stroke you should eat one grape. If you manage to consume all grapes within the period of the strikes, it means good luck in the new year.

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In modern time and world-wide, the association of parenthood is with a baby’s arrival, with New Year’s Eve a father and mother together presenting their newborn child as the new year arrives and is celebrated. People born on New Year’s Day are commonly called New Year babies. Hospitals, such as the Dyersburg Regional Medical Centerin the U.S., give out prizes to the first baby born in that hospital in the new year. These prizes are often donated by local businesses. Prizes may include various baby related items such as baby formula, baby blankets, diapers, and gift certificates to stores which specialize in baby related merchandise.

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