Ringing in the New Year? Just what does that mean? My guess is church bells ringing on the stroke of midnight. Do church bells still ring in Windsor? They will be in Dublin, Ireland, and people from around the world will be logging on to the Net to witness to witness that city’s Christ Church Cathedral’s historic ringing of the bells.
Making a resolution?
So why and when did this habit start? With the beginning of a whole new year to start over, I guess many of us take it as a golden opportunity to remake some aspect of ourselves. Modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking, while early Babylonian’s most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. (This resolution seems to have been picked up by Dagwood Bumstead who always seems to be returning his neighbour’s lawn mower.) Resolutions are definitely easier to make than keep.
Watching the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day?
The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers to celebrate the ripening of the orange crop in California. Although the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races the following year. In 1916, the football game returned.
So what’s up with the baby?
The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the New Year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus.
The Germans brought the use of an image of a baby with a New Year’s banner as a symbolic representation of the New Year to early America. They had used the effigy since the 14th century.
Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.
Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune. (Note: My friend Bonnie things maybe this was how the term “Ringing in the New Year” started.)
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the New Year by consuming black-eyed peas and they are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.
One of the most venerable New Year’s traditions is the Champagne toast at midnight to ring in the New Year. Toasting can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks who would pour wine, to be shared among those attending a religious function, from a common pitcher. The host would drink first, to assure his guests that the wine was not poisoned. Poisoning the wine was a fairly common practice in ancient times, designed to do away with one’s enemies. In those days the wine was not as refined as it is today so a square of burned bread (toast) would be floated in the wine bowl and then eaten by the last person to drink. The bread was put there to absorb the extra acidity of the wine in order to make it more palatable. Eventually, the act of drinking in unison came to be called a toast
What on earth do those words mean?
The song, “Auld Lang Syne” is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700s, it was first published in 1796 after Burns’ death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scottish tune, “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.” The lyrics can be found here.
However you celebrate, (above or below water) and whatever resolutions you make (and hopefully keep) I hope you all enjoy a SAFE and happy New Year’s Eve.