Select Page

Around the World: New Year’s Traditions and Celebrations

Around the World: New Year’s Traditions and Celebrations

New Year’s celebrations begin in many countries on December 31 — New Year’s Eve — and last into the early hours of January 1. There are many foods and snacks thought to bring good luck to revelers. Before midnight, people in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries bolt down a dozen grapes, symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes include legumes, which are thought to represent coins and herald future success.

What to Eat on New Year’s Day

Examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the south. In Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, and other countries, New Year’s Eve tables feature pork because in many cultures, pigs represent progress and prosperity.

In the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and other countries, ring-shaped cakes and pastries conclude the feast. On New Year’s Eve, rice pudding is served with a hidden almond in Sweden and Norway. Whoever finds the nut can look forward to good fortune for a year.

New Year’s Eve: Customs and Celebrations

The custom of watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year are also common worldwide, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” in many English-speaking countries. It is believed that the practice of making new year’s resolutions originated with the ancient Babylonians, who made promises to win the favor of the gods and start the year off right. (They reportedly pledged to repay their debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)

America For The Win!

The most iconic New Year’s tradition in the United States is the dropping of a giant ball at midnight in New York City’s Times Square. Almost every year, the event, which has taken place around the world since 1907, draws millions of spectators. Originally a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb, the ball has ballooned into a 12-foot diameter, nearly 12,000-pound sphere over time.

American towns and cities have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, dropping items ranging from pickles (Dillsburg, Pennsylvania) to possums (Tallapoosa, Georgia) at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Celebrations: An Origin story

It is believed that Romulus, the founder of Rome, created this calendar in the eighth century BC; the new year began at the vernal equinox. The addition of Januaryius and Februaryius is attributed to Numa Pompilius, a later king.

Through the centuries, the calendar drifted out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C., Caesar decided to consult with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time to solve the problem. The Julian calendar he introduced is similar to the Gregorian calendar most countries use today.

Happy New Year: January 1st

As part of his reform, Caesar set January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look backward and forward at the same time. During this time, Romans offered sacrifices to Janus, exchanged gifts with each other, decorated their homes with laurel branches, and held raucous parties.

Throughout medieval Europe, Christians temporarily substituted other days carrying more religious significance for January 1 as the first day of the year, like December 25 (Christmas day) and March 25 (Annunciation Day); Pope Gregory XIII restored January 1 to its original role as New Year’s Day in 1582.

The First Recorded Celebration of New Year’s Day

The first recorded celebration of a new year dates back to ancient Babylon, approximately 4,000 years ago. The Babylonians celebrated the start of a new year with the first new moon following the vernal equinox –the day in late March with equal amounts of sunlight and darkness.

It involved an 11-day religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was harvested in the spring) that featured different rituals each day. It was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed, along with the new year. The holiday celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat.


The Leader In Hip Hop Commentary

About The Author

Leave your email for breaking news alerts

* indicates required