As New Year’s Eve draws nearer to usher in the New Year, many people are feeling nostalgic about the year that passed. So many things have happened in the year that is ending. It’s a mix of individual, local, national and worldwide trials, political strifes, breakthroughs, discoveries and achievements.
Somehow, in many people’s minds, whatever happened in the past year will serve as lessons learned and they will be looking towards the coming year with renewed hope and fortitude.
While people look at New Year’s Eve with indulgence and romance today like any other secular event, celebrating the coming of another year is a very old holiday that came from deeply spiritual beginnings. During the time of the Romans, the term for New Year was Kalends, which was characterized by women who wore the amulets they sell, food-laden tables, blasphemous songs, pagan cries and street dancing.
Period of rebirth
The turning point of the year is the winter solstice, as it is considered to be the year’s birth. The pagans of old celebrate the sun’s return on this day. For the Christians, they welcome the birth of God’s Son.
For many, the days enclosed by the winter solstice and the New Year are luminous and magical. They believe that anything is possible during those 10 days.
Some of these traditional beliefs are the following:
- The 12 days of Christmas used to be omen days in England and they used those days to predict the coming year’s weather. Would you believe that the older generation of Filipinos also follows this tradition? Although for them, they predict the weather pattern starting from January 1 until January 12.
- On the other hand, the courts in Scotland cannot exercise their power during those 12 days. Meanwhile in Ireland, the traditional belief is that a person who dies within those 12 days would be heaven-bound.
- An ongoing Chaos and Order struggle occur during the days from the winter solstice until the New Year, according to ancient Babylonians. During the period, Chaos wants to dominate the world.
- Other cultures such as Celtic, Chinese and Hindu, look at the period as reversing the rules and order. Those who celebrate the event would participate in role-changing activities. For example, servants would become the bosses, which could be extreme. In mild cases, they just dress in costumes for the role-change, which lasts until the restoration of the order, which is the New Year.
Common New Year themes
Each culture has its own way to celebrate the New Year. While this is so, there are some themes that are common in every culture.
- For one thing, before the New Year comes, people strive to set some things right.
- People clean their houses from top to bottom.
- They pay off as much of their debts as they possibly can.
- Others return the objects they have borrowed, some give alms, others seek out people they had quarrels with and try to resolve their issues and mend the relationship. Still, many more reflect on their shortcomings.
- It is a tradition for many cultures to jump into the sea or lake as a symbol of washing the bad things that happened in the past year and come up refreshed and ready to start with another clean slate.
Traditional and unique New Year’s Eve and New Year practices
With such diverse cultures around us, it is interesting to observe the many New Year traditions they believe and practice.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac has a few of these traditions:
1. Making noise
Whether they use guns, pistols in the olden days or firecrackers and bells today, they use noise to ward off evil, demons or bad luck. Such revelry was practiced in China, Thailand, North America and the United States.
2. Eating different types of food
- Spaniards eat one grape at a time at midnight during the 12-second countdown to the New Year.
- People in the Southern U.S. prepare pork with black-eyed peas for good fortune.
- The Dutch eat food treats that are ring-shaped, symbolizing coming full circle¸ such as olie bollen. While in Ireland, the round, flat quick slices of bread called bannocks are traditionally eaten.
- It’s a tradition for the Jews to have apples dipped in honey for their Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year.
Some of the practices are unique and others think that they are a bit weird, but nevertheless, these activities are traditionally done.
- In Denmark, people collect old glasses and chipped dishes throughout the year. It’s their tradition to smash them against the front doors of their family and friends on New Year’s Eve for good luck.
- In Brazil, the holiday season is spring season, so the temperature is mildly warm. Brazilians believe that jumping seven waves, particularly at Copacabana will bring the person good luck. Wearing white is to hope for peace and throwing a bouquet into the ocean is an offering to the sea goddess, the luck-bringing Yemanja, considered the Mother of Sea of the Yorubans.
- In Estonia‘s capital, Tallinn, it’s traditional to eat either seven, nine or twelve meals on New Year’s Eve. The numbers are considered lucky and the meals are supposed to give people strength. It’s good to indulge at times, but it is better to leave some food on your plate to please some ancestral spirits.
- Buddhists in Japan celebrate the New Year’s Eve differently. They believe that there are 108 human desires, which cause them sufferings. To dispel these negative mentalities and emotions, Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times on New Year’s Eve.
- Ecuadorians buy effigies and burn them on New Year’s Eve.
- Filipinos, borrowing a tradition from the Chinese, believe that having 12 kinds of round fruits on their table on New Year’s Eve will bring them luck for the coming year. They also often serve sticky rice cakes to strengthen family ties and noodles for long life.
- In France, it’s a tradition to welcome the New Year with a champagne toast and a feast, as well as kisses under the mistletoe, a tradition that is more associated with Christmas in other countries. For the French, the weather on the first day of the year signifies how good the year’s agriculture and sea harvest is going to be.
- Greeks associate onions with longevity, fertility and good health. They hang an onion on their door on New Year’s Day after attending mass. Traditionally, they use the Urginea maritime variety, locally called a squill.
History of New Year
While many people know about the New Year’s Eve and New Year traditions and practices, most people probably did not know or have forgotten the history of New Year.
According to History.com, the celebration of New’ Year’s Day on January 1 started in 45 B.C. when people started using the Julian calendar.
When Julius Caesar became the Roman dictator, he wanted to reform the traditional Roman calendar. In the earlier days of its implementation, the calendar tried to conform to the lunar cycle but often missed the seasonal phases so it needed frequent correction. Moreover, the priests who oversaw the calendar abused their authority often by adding days to the calendar. They did that to interfere with elections of officials or otherwise extend the political terms of favored officials.
Caesar got the assistance of Alexandrian astronomer, Sosigenes to design the calendar. He advised that Caesar should follow the Egyptians and use the solar cycle instead of the lunar cycle. It was calculated that the year had 365 and 1/4 days. In order to compensate for the difference, in 45 B.C. Caesar added 67 to the calendar so that the first day of the year for 46 B.C. would fall on January 1. Caesar also decreed that a day should be added to February every four years. He managed to change the month of Quintilis to July, following his name. The month of Sextilis was later changed to Augustus or August, after Augustus Caesar who succeeded him.
There were errors in the calendar and those who followed it strictly failed to observe the New Year on the first day of January. It was due to the miscalculation of the number of days by Sosigenes and Caesar. Their calculation was 365.25 days instead of 365.242199 days. The error was 11 minutes a year but in the year 1000, it added seven days to the year which became 10 days by the middle of the 15th century.
Around the 1570s, Christopher Clavius, a Jesuit astronomer was hired by Pope Gregory XIII to amend the error with a new calendar, which took effect in 1582. The new Gregorian calendar removed 10 days from 1582. On the same year, it was decreed that the leap year should occur once every four hundred years. The changes in the calculation allowed people until today to meet the New Year on January 1.
With all these information, we hope that you will have more appreciation of the New Year and inspiration to honor your culture’s traditions.
And before you sing Auld Lang Syne, the traditional New Year’s Eve song, did you know that it started out as a Scottish poem? Robert Burns did not write the poem, but he was the first to commit it to paper in 1788. He based the tune to a traditional Scottish folk song.
Usher in the New Year with proper communication
We feel thankful for the blessings we have received the entire year and look forward to another fruitful year. It’s also time to send wonderful greetings to your friends around the world. It would be more meaningful if they were in their own language. Day Translations, Inc. can help you translate your New Year messages in the right language.
Whenever you need to have document translations or interpreting services, call us at Day Translations. Our professional translators are all native speakers and located worldwide, to serve you at a moment’s notice. We handle over 100 languages, ensuring you that we work with most of the spoken languages around the world. We are open 24/7, every day of the year. Easily connect with us through 1-800-969-6853 or contact us via email.
Before we end the year, we want to thank all our staff and clients worldwide for giving us a very rewarding year.