Sunday, January 2, 2011



   The tradition of the New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C.  Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.
   With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future.  Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.
   The new Year has not always begun on January 1st, and it doesn't begin on that date everywhere today.  It begins on that date only for cultures that use a 365-day solar calendar.  January 1st became the beginning of the New Year in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar developed a calendar that would more accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars had.

Greek god Janus

   The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances.  He was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back.  Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time.  At midnight on December 31st, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new. 
   The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year's Eve by giving one an other branches from sacred trees for good fortune.  Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common New Year's gifts.
   In he Middle Ages, Christians changed New Year's Day to December 25th, the birth of Jesus.  Then they changed it to March 25, a holiday called the Annunciation.  In the 16th century, Pope Gregory XII revised the Julian calendar, and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January 1st.

Greek coin with Janus

    The Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar calendars.  Some cultures have lunar calendars, however.  A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon.  The Chinese use a lunar calendar.  Their new year begins at the time of the first full moon (over the Far East) after the sun enters Aquarius...sometime between January 19th and February 21st.
   Although the date for New Year's Day is not the same in every culture, it is always a time for celebration and for customs to ensure good luck in the coming year.

Pope Gregory XII

Ancient New Years

   The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays.  It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago.  In the years around 2000 B.C.,  Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23rd, although they themselves had no written calendar.
   Late March actually is a logical choice for the beginning of a new year, it is the time of year that spring begins and new crops are planted.  January 1st, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance.  It is purely arbitrary.
   The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted 11 days.  Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's festivities pale in comparison.
   The Romans continued to observe the New Year on March 25th, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

Julius Ceasar

    In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 B.C., declared January 1st to be the beginning of New Year.  But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 B.C., established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar.  It again established January 1st 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.

Global Good Luck Traditions

   With New Year's upon us, here's a look at some of the good luck rituals from around the world.  They are believed to bring good fortune and prosperity in the coming year.

  • Austria-The suckling pig is the symbol for good luck for the new year.  It's served on a table decorated with tiny edible pigs.  Dessert often consists of green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a 4 leaf clover.
  • England-The British place their fortunes for the coming year in the hands of their first guest.  They believe the first visitor of each year should be male and bearing gifts.  Traditional gifts are coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and a drink for the master.  For good luck, the guest should enter through the front door and leave through the back.  Guests who are empty-handed or unwanted are not allowed to enter first.
  • Wales-At the first toll of midnight, the back door is opened and then shut to release the old year and lock out all of its bad luck.  Then at the twelfth stroke of the clock, the front door is opened and the New Year is welcomed with all of its luck.
  • Haiti-In Haiti, New Year's Day is a sign of the year to come.  Haitians wear new clothing and exchange gifts in the hope that it will bode well for the new year.
  • Sicily-An old Sicilian tradition says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year's Day, but woe if you dine on macaroni, for any other noodle will bring bad luck.
  • Spain-In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, the Spanish eat 12 grapes, one with every toll, to bring good luck for the 12 months ahead.
  • Peru-The Peruvian New Year's custom is a spin on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the turn of the year.  But in Peru, a 13th grape must be eaten to assure good luck.
  • Greece-A special New Year's bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough.  The first slice is for the Christ child, the second for the father of the household and the third slice is for the house.  If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early that year.
  • Japan-The Japanese decorate their homes in tribute to luck gods.  One tradition, kadomatsu, consists of a pine branch symbolizing longevity, a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity, and a plum blossom showing nobility.
  • China-For the Chinese New Year, every front door is adorned with a fresh coat of red paint, red being a symbol of good luck and happiness.  Although the whole family prepares a feast for the New Year, all knives are put away for 24 hours to keep anyone from cutting themselves, which is thought to cut the family's good luck for the next year.
  • United States-The kiss shared at the stroke of midnight in the United States is derived from masked balls that have been common throughout history.  As tradition has it, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss is the purification into the new year.
  • Norway-Norwegians make rice pudding at New Yewar's and hide one whole almond within.  Guraanteed wealth goes to the person whose serving holds the lucky almond


  1.    You wish you had eaten less.  This is one of the most common complaints after the holiday.  Why did you stuff down that last huge piece of ham or turkey, or that second dessert?  Now you've gained five or ten pounds and you'll have to spend January and February working it off.
  2. You wish you had done what you wanted.  Every year during the holidays, many people find themselves being pulled in ten different directions.  Grandma wants you at her house at noon for dinner, mom wants you to unwrap gifts at her house at 11.  Your friends want to get together at 3 p.m.,  and then your aunt asks you to drop by at 2.  After the day is over, you find you put more miles on your car in one day than you did during the whole month of December.  You're exhausted, stressed out, and wish you had just stayed home in bed.
  3. The desire to go back and get people different Christmas gifts.  Now that you see your brother didn't really need a new razor, but could have used a gift certificate, you start wishing you had actually asked your relatives what they wanted before you bought them gifts they can't use.
  4. The desire not to have bought gifts for anyone.  Your realized that much of the spirit of the holiday season was lost by reducing the time you spent together to a gift exchange.  You wish that you had just met to enjoy the time instead of going all over the town buying gifts to take up the whole holiday time. 
  5. You wish you had had more time.  The holidays pass so quickly, it's as it they passed in the glimpse of an eye.  You wish there was some way to go back and not waste time arguing, or buying gifts, so that you could enjoy every single moment.
  6. You wish you had forgone that argument with a loved one.  Chances are, you probably got in a huge argument with someone you really care about, it was about something stupid, and you wish you had just turned the other way instead of allowing a huge argument to ensue.  Now, you and your mother aren't even talking.
  7. You wish you had realized how special the day was.  Perhaps you went in with a "bah humbug " attitude, and just sat around moping the whole day.  Now you wish you had thought for a minute about how nice it was that the family got together, so you would have appreciated it more.


   Every culture and many families have tradition's and superstitions about foods that will ensure a prosperous New Year.  With the state of the economy and all the financial woes it has caused in 2009, it might not hurt for us to lean toward the superstitious side this New Year's day.  So, if you don't have any of the following foods in your kitchen right now, you might want to make a "good luck" run to the store!

Vegetables Associated with Good Luck for the New Year

   There is a tradition of eating black-eyes peas on January 1st, it is a common good luck food in the southern United States, black-eyed peas are thought to bring prosperity, their shape and abundance representing coins.  Other vegetables that are considered lucky are: Lentils, they resemble coins and are thought to bring good fortune and represent growing wealth.  Greens (kale, collards), are thought to be the color of money, they are thougtht to bring wealth and prosperity.  Cabbage, because their leaves are representative of paper money!

Pigging out during New Year's Day Dinner!

   While fish is considered lucky in NOrth America, Asia, and Europe (it's believed it represents moving forward), the overwhelming international choice for "good luck" meat is pork.  The pig or hog meat is considerd lucky because it symbolizes prosperity.

Good Luck Fruits to Eat on New Year's Day

   Many traditions include certain fruits that are believed to symbolize prosperity or good luck, such as :
   Pomegranates, associated with abundance and fertility (This could be good or bad, depending!).  Citrus, because tangerine and orange sound much like luck and wealth, respectively, in the Chinese language.  Grapes, eating 12 grapes at midnight for a prosperous, sweet year!

Good Luck Carbs

   Forget the low-carb diet for one day.  Make some rice pudding and hide an almond in the center.  Eat noodles, but be sure to eat them whole, not broken!  Many countries have traditions that include eating cakes and pastries that are baked in a ring or round shape.  Eat like the French do, and eat a stack of pancakes for good luck.  Indulge in a donut, since the Dutch believe that this sugary treat's circular shape is lucky!

Bad Luck Food Warning for New Year

   Some people believe that we should not eat anything white, because white represents death.  However in Sicily eating lasagna is lucky (but not macaroni).  In further opposition to this warning, many cultures swear that eating rice creates good luck in the new year.
   Some say not to eat chicken or anything with wings as this might make our good luck fly away.  This superstition for some, may include fish, if it is not eaten before midnight, if it is after your good luck may SWIM away!
  Not cleaning your plate, leaving that last bit is believed to assure that you will have food on your plate for the rest of the year!!