The origins of New Year traditions

Terry RogersCulture, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

Learn more about popular New Year’s Eve traditions (Photo courtesy of Kateyrna Hlitznova, Unsplash Media)

So many traditions circle around the start of the new year, from making resolutions to shooting fireworks, even the date that marks the start of the new year. Some of these traditions have carried over for centuries while others are fairly new.

One tradition, kissing at midnight, began as a way to ensure that you have romance throughout the year. It is believed to be a custom that began in ancient Europe as a way to ward off evil spirits as well. Some historians link it to the Saturnalia celebrations of early Rome as well.

Another tradition is the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight. The song never actually mentions the new year, but it is credited to Guy Lombardo and his band, the Royal Canadians who performed the song on the radio on December 31, 1929, and continued to do so for many years after. It is actually a Scottish song with “auld lang syne” translating into “old long since.” The lyrics focus on putting the past behind and moving into the future, which make it the perfect accompaniment to New Year’s Eve.

The New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square is another holiday tradition for many, even if you have never been in New York on the holiday. This tradition began in the early 1900s although the ball drop itself did not begin until 1907.

Lentils are a popular tradition on New Year’s Eve as well, especially in Italy while in the United States, many families insist on eating black-eyed peas on the first day of the year in order to bring luck. It is said the tradition began as the coin shape of the beans symbolized prosperity. New Year resolutions are also common during this time, a tradition that began as far back as ancient Babylon. The resolutions are meant to help achieve goals for the upcoming year.

In Brazil, it is a tradition to jump seven waves to start the new year, making one wish for each wave. Several communities in Delaware host Polar Bear plunges on New Year’s Day, so that may be a fun tradition to start so you can get in your wave jumping. In Columbia, people walk around the block carrying an empty suitcase on New Year’s Eve in order to travel in the upcoming year while in Saratoga Springs, New York, it is customary to smash a peppermint pig before eating a piece of the candy to bring good health, happiness and prosperity in the new year.

Fireworks are another tradition around the world on New Year’s Eve, something that may have started in China in the seventh century. Loud sounds were used to ward off evil spirits while in some cultures, the color of the fireworks correspond with love, luck and health. Romanians believe that tossing a coin in the river on New Year’s Eve will bring good luck.

In Scotland, a tradition known as “footing” determines whether your household will be prosperous. The superstition says that the first person to enter your home at midnight must be a tall, dark-haired male. He should also bring coins or black buns with him for luck.

Of course, no New Year celebration would be complete without a toast. This practice dates back to the ancient world when people often raised a glass to good health. A champagne toast on New Year’s dates back to the 17th century when wealth French citizens toasted to symbolize prosperity.



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