Many New Year’s traditions that we take for granted really date back to earlier period. This year, ring out the old and ring in the new with a brand new New Year’s tradition—or two!
MAKE SOME NOISE
Making lots of noise—from fireworks to gun shots to church bells—seems to be a favourite pastime round the world.
In ancient Thailand, guns were fired to scare away demons.
In China, firecrackers routed the forces of darkness.
In the early American colonies, the sound of pistol shots rang through the air.
Today, Italians let their church bells peal, Swiss beat drums, and also the North Americans sound sirens and party horns to bid the previous year farewell.
EAT LUCKY FOOD
Many New Year’s traditions surround food. Here are a few:
The tradition of intake twelve grapes at midnight comes from Spain. Revellers stuff their mouths with twelve grapes in the final moments of the year—one grape for each chime of the clock!
In the southern US, black-eyed peas and pork foretell luck. See our recipe for good Luck Hoppin’ John!
In Scotland—where Hogmanay is celebrated—people parade down the streets swinging balls of fire.
Eating any ring-shaped treat (such as a doughnut) symbolizes “coming full circle” and results in luck. In Dutch homes, fritters referred to as olie bollen are served.
The Irish enjoy pastries known as bannocks.
In India and Pakistan, rice promises prosperity.
Apples dipped in honey are a Rosh Hashonah (Jewish New Year) tradition.
In Swiss homes, dollops of whipped cream, symbolising the richness of the year to come, are dropped on the floors—and allowed to remain there!
HAVE A DRINK
although the pop of a champagne cork signals the arrival of the New Year around the world, some countries have their own beverage-based traditions.
Wassail, a punch-like drink named after the Gaelic term for “good health,” is served in some parts of England.
Spiced “hot pint” is the Scottish version of Wassail. Traditionally, the Scots drank to each other’s prosperity and conjointly offered this warm drink to neighbours together with a tiny low gift.
In Holland, toasts are created with hot, spiced wine.
See our vacation Punch Hints and Recipes!
GIVE A GIFT
New Year’s Day was once the time to swap presents.
Gifts of gilded nuts or coins marked the beginning of the New Year in Rome.
Eggs, the symbol of fertility, were exchanged by the Persians.
Early Egyptians traded earthenware flasks.
In Scotland, coal, shortbread cookie and silverware were traditionally exchanged for good luck.
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
In Scotland, the custom of first-footing is a very important part of the celebration of Hogmanay, or New Year’s Eve day.
After midnight, family and friends visit each other’s home. The “first foot” to cross a threshold after midnight will predict the following year’s fortune. Though the tradition varies, those deemed especially fortunate as “first footers” are new brides, new mothers, people who are tall and dark (and handsome?) or anyone born on January one.
TURN OVER a brand new LEAF
The dawn of a brand new year is an opportune time to take stock of your life.
Jews who observe Rosh Hashonah build time for personal introspection and prayer, as well as visiting graves.
Christian churches hold “watch-night” services, a custom that began in 1770 at old St. Georges Methodist Church in Philadelphia.
The practice of making New Year’s resolutions, aforementioned to have begun with the Babylonians as early as 2600 B.C., is another way to reflect on the past and plan ahead.
NEW YEAR’S folklore
some customs and beliefs are merely passed down through the ages. Here are a number of our favourite old sayings and proverbs.
On New Year’s Eve, kiss the person you hope to keep kissing.
If New Year’s Eve night wind blow south, it betokened warmth and growth.
For abundance in the New Year, fill your pockets and cabinets today.
If the previous year goes out like a lion, the New Year will come in like a lamb.
Begin the New Year sq. with every man. [i.e., pay your debts!] –Robert B. Thomas, founding father of the previous Farmer’s Almanac so, whether we resolve to return borrowed farm equipment (as did the Babylonians) or drop a few pounds, we’re tapping into an ancient and powerful longing for a fresh start!