On December 31st, New Year’s Eve, people in the United States began to celebrate the New Year. Families and friends get together to share a meal and “ring in” the New Year, which usually includes a toast and a song. Americans also enjoy watching the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square (New York City), which are televised on television. In the United States, New Year’s Day (January 1st) is a national holiday.
For thousands of years, people have held celebrations to mark the start of a new year. People would come together to eat, drink, and have a good time, but in certain regions, the celebrations were tied to the land or astrological phenomena. In Egypt, for example, the beginning of the year coincided with the flooding of the River Nile, which usually occurred when the star Sirius rose. At the spring equinox, the Persians and Phoenicians began their new year (this is around 20 March when the Sun shines more or less directly on the equator and the length of the night and the day are almost the same).
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The first New Year’s celebrations were reported around 4,000 years ago in Babylon, in ancient Mesopotamia. The Babylonians celebrated the first new moon after the spring equinox, and this event was known as Akitu (which comes from the word the Sumerians used for barley). In Mesopotamia, barley was harvested in the spring, and there was a separate ritual for each of the 11 days of the Akitu festival. The Babylonians believed that by carrying deity statues through the streets of the city, their world had been cleansed in preparation for the new year and a new spring.
As soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, amazing fireworks displays take place in numerous locations across the world. In recent years, one of the first of these celebrations has taken place in Sydney, Australia, as New Year arrives there before most other major international cities. The display takes place in Sydney Harbour, which is a spectacular setting with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. As the clock strikes 12 a.m. in hundreds of locations around the world, fireworks light up the sky.
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Around the world, there are a variety of weird and unique New Year’s traditions. New Year’s Eve in Scotland is known as Hogmanay, and ‘first footing’ is still a popular tradition, with individuals visiting friends’ and neighbours’ homes shortly after midnight. The first visitor to your home should bring a present, as this will bring you good fortune. It is customary in Spain to eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight on December 31. At the ringing of the bell, one grape is eaten, and each grape is said to bring good luck for the month ahead. On New Year’s Eve, people in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, and other Central and South American countries wear unique underwear in a variety of colours. Red is thought to bring love in the new year, whilst yellow is thought to bring money.
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The start of a new year is an excellent time to make positive changes. Making New Year’s resolutions is more popular in the western hemisphere, although it is also practised in the eastern hemisphere. A person makes a pledge to modify an undesired habit or behaviour, or sets a personal goal, in this tradition. Typical New Year’s resolutions include quitting smoking, eating healthier foods, exercising more, becoming more organized, and laughing more – but a New Year’s resolve can be anything. According to research, however, many New Year’s resolutions fail. Being realistic about your goals and refraining from making too many New Year’s resolutions may aid your achievement.
Feature Image Credits: Robin Creations