Saturday, January 1, 2011


   New Year's is a time to celebrate the end of the past year and welcome a new year.  It is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.  The parties and traditions surrounding this time are many and varied.  But where do they com from?  Who started them and why?  New Year's Eve has specific traditions and celebrations as does New Year's Day.  Here are some specific traditions from America and where they come from.

Auld Lang Syne- A traditional Scottish song that was first published in 1796, Auld Lang Syne is the most popular song that no one knows the word to!  Guy Lombardo played the song on New Year's Eve in 1929 and it has become a tradition ever since.The song celebrate the remembrance of old friends.

   Kissing At Midnight- On New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight, everyone kisses.  Even if you don't have someone to kiss, you wish you were kissing.  This is more than just a celebration.  It is a tradition with a base.  It is generally believed that whatever you are doing when New Year's Day arrives is what you will be doing for the rest of the year.  So, kissing your loved ones is just assuring yourself that you will be doing more of that over the coming year.

Noisemakers- Trumpet like noisemakers, loud yells of "hooray!" and blaring music are traditional at midnight.  All of that noise is not just joy at the change in seasons.  It has a basis in ancient beliefs as well.  When gas and electric lights first became used, it became a tradition to turn on all of your lights and go to the church at midnight on New Year's Eve to hear the bells ringing.  People began taking more noisemakers and hollering to make noise as well.  This tradition originated from a belief that evil spirits would be scared away by the noise.  Over the years, this morphed into the loud noisemaking that is so popular at midnight on New Year's Eve.

Fireworks- A close partner to the noisemaking at midnight, is the numerous fireworks displays and the blowing up of firecrackers on New year's.  This goes hand in hand with the belief that loud noises frighten away evil spirits.  The Chinese, of course, are credited with inventing fireworks.  Fireworks are also believed to draw good luck.

Making Toasts- In ancient England, the Saxon's used a Wassail bowl filled with alcoholic beverages.  A large cup might be passed around with a piece of hard bread in the bottom.  Everyone drank from the cup and yelled out good wishes.  Then, the host would eat the bread from the bottom of the cup.  This is where the traditional "toasting" came from.  Now, we make toasts honoring people and wishing good luck and a prosperous New Year.

The Ball Dropping- The best known tradition and largest celebration in America is the New Year's celebration in Times Square in New York City where "the ball drops".  This tradition started in 1907 and is the most widely viewed, and attended celebration on New Year's Eve.  The ball dropping signifies the end of the old and the beginning of the new.  The countdown and drop derive from a time signal used in naval harbors at noontime.


Father Time and the New Years Baby-Many New Year's decorations feature Father Time and the New Year's Baby.  The old year is represented by Father Time, a bearded old man with a walking stick, who caries an hour glass to symbolize the movement of time.  Father Time has roots in the Greek go Chronos, as well as the Grim Reaper.  The new year's baby traces its ancestry to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who regarded the baby as a symbol of rebirth.  The image of a baby with a New Year banner was brought to America by German immigrants.  So, the old year hands over its responsibility to the new year, a time of rebirth and new chances.

New Year's Resolutions- It is generally believed that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make resolutions on New Years.  Early Christians believed that the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on your past actions and resolving to improve oneself in the coming year.  From this has grown the tradition of making New Year's resolutions.  The tradition of breaking them is probably just as old.

Tournament of Roses Parade- One of the favorite tradition's for New Year's day is to watch the Pasadena, California Tournament of Roses Parade on television.  The parade first started in 1886, when members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers for a parade celebrating the ripening of the orange crop.  Now we watch the parade and marvel at the beautiful floats covered in thousands and thousands of flowers.  The Rose Bowl football game that follows the parade is another tradition.

Eating Black Eyed Peas- In the southern part of the U.S., a major tradition is eating Black Eyed peas on New Year's day.  Supposedly, during the Civil War, black eyed peas were "cow peas", used for feeding cattle.  But, during the Battle of Vicksburg, the town was cut off from all food supplies for 40 days.  The people survived by eating the "cow peas" that the enemy troops had left behind.  Since that time, they have been regarded as bringing good luck to those who eat them.  They are usually paired with greens which are a symbol for wealth.

   These are some of the most famous traditions of the New Year in America.  Hopefully, you have some idea as to why we do the things we do on New Year's Eve and Day.  So go out and grab yourself a bowl of Black Eyed peas to ring in the new year and hopfully they'll bring you good luck for the coming new year!!