Merry 6th Day of Christmas, Happy New Year’s Eve and Happy Champagne Day!
What are you doing New Year’s….New Year’s Eve? I love that song. This is my favorite rendition of it, by Rufus Wainwright…
Friends in Virginia, keep in mind that on January 1st, all Virginia State Parks and many county parks are hosting a first day hike. Put your best foot forward and take a hike on New Year’s Day!
Here is some background information about New Year’s Eve customs we know and love.
Why we celebrate the New Year on January 1?
For centuries, various cultures around the world have celebrated the New Year at various times of the year, including spring, summer, fall and winter. The Western tradition of celebrating the New Year on January 1 goes back to the time of Julius Caesar of Rome, who proclaimed that January 1st was the first day of the new year. January was named in honor of Janus, the Roman god who guarded the gate between earth and heaven, and a great festival was held in his name. Janus had two faces; one to look at the old year departing and the other to look at the new year arriving. (Source: Happy New Year Around the World by Lois S. Johnson, 1966).
Why is a newborn baby assoiated with the New Year?
The Greek god, Dionysus, was represented as a baby in the ancient Greek new year festival in the spring. It probably became associated with the themes of rebirth and newness.
Why Do We Sing Auld Lang Syne at Midnight on New Year’s Eve?
The band leader Guy Lombardo was from Canada and he got his start there, playing at dances. Ontario had a large Scottish population and it was traditional to end dances by playing “Auld Lang Syne” a song written by the immensely popular Scottish poet Robert Burns who lived around the time of George Washington, who based it off an old Scottish song of unknown origin.
When Lombardo and his band relocated to the United States, they began playing New Year’s Eve concerts that were broadcast on the radio, and in 1929, the band ended the concert with the song in their repertoire and his performances became a tradition on radio and later television into the mid-1970s. Now, it just wouldn’t seem like New Year’s Eve without Auld Lang Syne at midnight.
Why do we use noisemakers and make noise on New Year’s Eve?
The custom of making noise and setting off fireworks goes back to an ancient pagan tradition of making noise to scare away evil spirits and to welcome good spirits and good luck. It is the same reason why churches (at least they used to) ring bells on New Year’s Eve — to drive the Devil away.
Why do we wear funny hats on New Year’s Eve?
Many ancient customss involve wearing some sort of costume during New Year festivals. The idea behind this custom is that you will not be recognized by evil spirits or fairies who might otherwise do you harm.
Why do we throw confetti and streamers on New Year’s Eve?
The custom of doing this at New Year’s Eve probably began most likely in France in 1885. Flowers, confetti (tiny candies), rice and bits of paper were showered on brides in Italy, England and France to ensure the bride’s fertility and the couple’s prosperity for centuries. Confetti – both the candies and the paper kind — were tossed from parades to spectators during carnival season. It is likely that the custom transferred to New Year’s Eve celebrations as wishes for prosperity at parties. The custom of throwing serpentine streamers likely originated with the tradition of throwing streamers from aboard ship to well-wishers on the dock as one left on a voyage. It was a symbolic gesture of affection and connection.
Why do we dress up on New Year’s Eve?
The celebration of the start of the year in America was typically a quiet one. People went to church; Dutch immigrants in New York hosted open houses for family, friends and neighbors to visit. After the Industrial Revolution and inventions of electrc lights, street cars and subways (late 1800s to early 1900s), however, more people gravitated to cities like New York and Washington, DC to work and make friends. Going out at night became possible because of the increased lighting and transportation options. It became the fashion to go to New Year’s Eve parties at social clubs or in private homes for dinner and dancing, or to celebrate at home. People began dressing up in their finest and most sparkly attire for these ritzy fetes to impress the other hosts and guests — and the custom likely came to be associated with starting the new year with hopes for success on the right foot. The sparkles reflected the light in these lower-light settings, symbolizing a bright start to the new year.
What is the history of New Year’s resolutions?
The custom of resolutions is more than 4,000 years old! Ancient Babylonians and Romans presented offerings and prayers to their gods at the start of the new year. They promised to behave with virtue and in ways pleasing to the gods in order to win favor from them in the new year.
Why do we kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?
The custom of kissing at midnight on New Year’s Eve is a tradiion in America that likely arrived with Scottish and German settlers, who in turn were influenced by Ancient Roman, Celtic and Viking customs in which kissing was thought to protect people from ill fortune and evil spirits. German immigrants believed whomever you were with at midnight at New Year’s Eve affected your luck in the new year.
Why do we drink champagne on New Year’s Eve?
Champagne was once so expensive that only royalty could afford to drink it. In the 1800s, it became affordable enough for people to afford on very special occasions and it continued to be associated with riches and luxury. It probably was drunk on New Year’s Eve since so many people wish for prosperity then.
Why do we drop a ball on New Year’s Eve at midnight?
Sailors used set their timepieces by dropping floating balls into the sea from their boats at certain intervals and then finding them with a spyglass. The first time ball dropped on New Year’s Eve in the U.S. happened in 1845 in Washington, DC and in the early 1900s, the tradition began in Times Square, New York. But Times Square is not named after the ball. It is named because the New York Times moved their offices there in 1904.