Wow, it’s hard to believe that 2019 is coming to a close already as it feels we just started it a few weeks ago. I do hope your 2019 has been a good one, and that 2020 is even better. Ever been curious as to how New Year is celebrated in other parts of the world?
In Finland, each new year family and friends gather to burn metal in a pan for a ritual called "molybdomancy". The Finns inspect the shadows the metal casts by candlelight, as those shapes are supposed to predict the future. Although, this metal is customarily called “tin,” it’s actually sometimes lead, which, among other things, is known to spark severe mental illness... that might explain why this ritual has persisted for hundreds of years. And while that's all pretty well and weird, the Finns aren't alone: Ecuadorians burn paper-filled scarecrows, the Swiss drop ice cream on the floor, and people in Siberia plunge into frozen lakes while carrying a tree trunk -- all to ring in the new year.
Only around 40% of us will even make a resolution. While nearly all of those vows err on the side of improvement (e.g. start exercising, improve your finances, quit smoking), the 8th most common resolution is to get along better with someone else, according to a 2012 Harris poll. So what’s the number one New Year’s resolution? Weight loss (duh).
Why does the New Year begin on January 1st? Because our contemporary (Gregorian) calendar is based on the Julian one (named after none other than the Big Ceas) and he made January month numero uno (which is latin for "number one" btw).
The first indication of a new year’s celebrations crop up around 2000 BC in the Middle East. Or, as its known in 9th grade history class, “Mesopotamia". At that time (2000 BC, not 9th grade), each year began on March 20th, AKA the vernal (or Spring) equinox. That's the one where the sun crosses directly over the equator. Nowadays, celebrating New Year’s is illegal in much of the same region (e.g. Saudi Arabia). Fertile crescent? More like festive crescent!
We have ancient Rome to thank for our year beginning in January. The Roman god the month is named after, Janus, was described as having two faces. That's not a catty put-down either. We mean he literally had double the mug. When depicted in ancient Roman art, one of Janus' faces looks forward, while the other looks back. You know, like how you do on New Year's. Mad metaphorical.
Thought to have been derived from a Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) custom, Americans in the South annually gobble black-eyed peas. Most Southerners (and many historians) maintain the tradition began to take hold stateside when the first Shepari Jews moved to Georgia in the 1730s. By the end of the Civil War, the Rosh Hashanah tradition had evolved into a widespread practice in the South, enjoyed by both Jews and gentiles.
Before Times Square was the home of M&Ms, naked cowboys, and hard-haggling middle-aged men in Elmo costumes, it was a classy little bit of town, called One Times Square. Its first New Year’s ball dropping took place December 31, 1907. Since then, it’s tumbled down every year (save for a couple during World War II). Over a million-people flock to watch every December.
Historians reckon that the New Year’s kiss is derived from either German and English folklore (it was a tradition in both). Both customs contended this: the first person you encounter in a new year will set that year’s tone. So, if the person you encounter likes you enough to make out with you, things are looking pretty good. Or maybe you're just looking pretty good.
The lyrics of Auld Lang Syne (which we can't abbreviate because ice buckets) are from a 1788 poem by an old Scot called Robert Burns. Well, Burns attributed the lyrics to unwritten remarks by an unnamed old man. But a few graphs of it very closely (near verbatim) resemble a poem called "Old Long Syne" written in 1711 by a man called James Watson. It's assumed Burns at least wrote the rest of it. Things like: Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving Breast on thine. Catchy. Apparently, the Boy Scouts of America sing it at the end of their jamborees. Now you want a "Things you didn't know about Boy Scouts", right!?
About 22% of Americans cop to passing out before the clock strikes 12. Unless you’re Cinderella and you gotta go before your carriage turns into a pumpkin, then there's no excuse. Being conscious to recognize midnight is the whole reason there was even a party, man. So enjoy the countdown to 2020 and raise a glass of bubbly to a Happy New Year.