New Year Snippets

NEW YEAR TITBITS

ANCIENT NEW YEARS

New Year’s Day is the oldest of all holidays. About 4000 years ago the Babylonians celebration lasted for eleven days.

January 1 celebrated world wide as New Year has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary and depends solely on a turn of the calendar page.

January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.

NEW YEAR TRADITIONS

Resolutions

The most famous tradition of the New Year is making resolutions. That tradition too dates back to the early Babylonians whose most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

Roses parade, Pasadena, California

The Tournament of Roses Parade was begun in 1886 when members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers and celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California. The Rose Parade features the beautiful pageantry and tradition of magnificent floral floats, high-stepping equestrians and spirited marching bands. The Rose Queen is also crowned that day.

The Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902. It was replaced by Roman chariot races in 1903. In 1916, the football game was brought back as the main event of the festival.

BABY AS AN IMAGE OF THE NEW YEAR

In Greece, around 600 BC, a tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was started The tradition was to celebrate the God of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket. This represented the annual rebirth of the god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.

Early Christians denounced this practice as pagan. However, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to celebrate the New Year with a baby that symbolized the birth of the baby Jesus.

The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner representing the New Year was brought into America by the Germans who had used the effigy since the fourteenth century.

AULD LANG SYNE

• “Auld Lang Syne,” is sung at the stroke of midnight and just before the New Year begins.
• Partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700’s, it was first published in 1796 after Burns’ death. Early variations of the song were sung before 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition.
• An old Scotch tune, “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”

FOR LUCK IN THE NEW YEAR

Tradition in most civilizations said that one could influence one’s luck throughout the coming year by what was done and eaten on the first day of the year. That is how it became the custom to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. So parties often lasted beyong midnight after the new year was rung in.

FIRST-FOOTER

In Scotland even today it is believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck for the rest of the year. So a tall dark-haired man was considered very auspicious if he was the first visitor.

THE LUCKY ROUND SHAPE

What you eat is what you get! If you eat anything in the shape of a ring then the year would bring good luck. Why a ring? Simple! It symbolizes “coming full circle” or completing a year’s cycle.

So the Dutch eat donuts on New Year’s Day to bring them good fortune.

BLACK-EYED PEAS

• In the U.S. New Year means eating black-eyed peas with either hog jowls or ham.
• Black-eyed peas and other legumes are considered good luck in many cultures. The hog or meat symbolizes prosperity.
• Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day as its leaves are a sign of prosperity. They represent paper currency.
• Rice too is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.

Off with the Old and Hello! New

There cannot be a New Year until the Old Year has gone. The Old Year is thought to be evil and must be banished. So, an effigy of Death is paraded through the town or city and is buried, drowned, or burned. The effigy can be made of straw, twigs, or rags.

One way Entry Only

Nothing should be taken out of the house as one may remove the good luck along with it. You had to be wise and make sure that lots of things were carried into the house. So—gifts and presents wrapped attractively became the custom.

Fill up your pockets and your stomachs

Both one’s pockets as well as one’s stomach should be full. This was to make sure that in the coming year you would be prosperous and well fed. Empty pockets and empty larders in the kitchen was a sign of a year of poverty.

Sound Bytes

Don’t groan with displeasure at the noise decibels at the stroke of midnight on December 31st. People feared that evil spirits were let loose on the last day of the year. So they would make lots of noise and have loads of fun to drive the evil spirits away. Thus the New Year could be started off unharmed and unimpeded.

Fireworks also helped to drive the evil forces away as it was believed that they were afraid of light and noise.. this was the reason why people would make lots and lots of noises at the stroke of midnight.

The pealing church bells also helped to drive evil spirits away at the end of the old year.

Padmini Natarajan

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About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest is acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays.
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8 Responses to New Year Snippets

  1. shackman says:

    Ah yes – the Rose Bowl. Go Ducks! 59-20 – LOL.

    Like

  2. Dun-Na-Sead says:

    Dear Padmum, I greatly enjoyed this list of customs, a lot of which I didn’t know. In my family, we eat black-eyed peas, the black spots representing wealth, without meat, but with corn bread, a local custom, as corn (maise) is our largest local crop. we also clean the house from top to bottom, redding it (readying it) for the new year and visitors. At midnight, everyone takes a pot and a large wooden cooking spoon and parades around the neighborhood yelling and banging the bottom of the pot. Bad spirits dead, we all shake hands and hug as a sign of neighborliness. Please accept an internet sign of neighborliness from me, and wishes for a great 2015.

    Like

    • padmum says:

      Bang bang bang….there I have chased away the nasty spirits as well! Hugs and high fives to you too….and thanks for the warm and affectionate comment….am lagging behind two posts….will do them anon! Bless you!

      Like

  3. rummuser says:

    Way to go. Start blogging again regularly.

    Like

  4. Maria says:

    Now that I no longer live in western Europe, I’m rather sorry I never visited the Scottish branch of my family at the new year season. They call it Hogmanay.

    Like

  5. Maxi says:

    Fireworks and church bells help to drive away evil spirits. I like that. Hope all is well with you, Padmum.
    blessings ~ maxi

    Like

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