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History of New Year’s Eve

by | Dec 30, 2022 | Entertainment, Kitchen Sink, News

New Year’s Eve is upon us all once again and for some it is hitting like a few tons of bricks. The year of 2022 has been one hell of a ride for some and for others, well it was smooth sailing on a sea calmed by Jesus himself. Those people are extremely lucky while the rest of us are still wondering how we survived in the first place and is it all really real?! Everyone in the entire world has had a rough couple of years ever since COVID-19 made its ugly, enraging, and unflattering appearance in our lives officially in March of 2020. It kind of makes you wonder then why is it COVID nineteen and not COVID twenty? I think we all know the answer to that question without being labeled as a bunch of conspiracy theorists these days. The pandemic was started back in the year 2019 bur the United States government decided to not let the rest of the world know that there was an infectious disease running rampant in the world until around March of 2020. Many people were already sick with a mysterious illness that no one knew to test for since it was a new disease. Anyway, let’s all take a minute to take a deep breath (six feet away from strangers, while wearing a mask, or in the privacy of your own home) and realize that we have survived yet another year and we will bring in this next year with a bang! After all that we have been through, this next year is going to be better than the last three. Let’s all believe it and claim it because we all could use a win right about now.

“Auld Lang Syne”

Some people are familiar with the history of New Year’s Eve and that infamous song that everyone tries to sing along to when that stroke of midnight hits the clock, and that ball has officially dropped. So, what exactly does Auld Lang Syne mean, and why do we sing this song at the stroke of midnight only on New Year’s Eve? History has reported that “Auld Lang Syne,” is the title of a Scottish folk song that many people sing, or attempt to sing, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.  It is an expression from the Scots language that was first said around the years 1660 to 1680. It loosely translates to “days gone by, old times, especially fond ones, and old or long friendship.” (The actual words translate to old long since)

Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, is credited with adapting and partially rewriting the poem in the year 1788 and then having it published later on in the year 1796 after his death. The original version of this expressional poem was actually popular a century before Robert Burns popularized it. No one is sure who the original author of the poem was, and Mr. Burns did not take the credit for it. He was an honest man who took a part of the original as a folk song and added his own lyrics to it to make it what we all know and sing, or try to sing, today. It is reported that the chorus and the first stanza came from somewhere else, and the rest of the lyrics are from Mr. Burns himself. Its lyrics, ask whether “auld acquaintance” should “be forgot,” and have been interpreted as a call to remember friends and experiences from your past.

Though sung on New Year’s Eve since the mid-19th century, this song became cemented as part of history standards when Guy Lombardo and his band, the Royal Canadians, played it during a radio broadcast from New York’s Roosevelt Hotel at midnight on December 31, 1929. The band went on to perform this hit every year until 1976. Guy Lombardo is known as Mr. New Year’s Eve because of his broadcast. He is the one who is responsible for pushing “Auld Lang Syne” out to the masses and loudspeakers still continue to blast their rendition after the annual ball drop in Times Square in New York City to this day. After all, if it is not broken, do not fix it. Why mess with perfection, right?

Resolutions for New Year’s Eve? Who Started This Trend?

People from all over the world have been pledging to change their ways when the new year arrives. Some infamous resolutions are to exercise more, get in shape, quitting a bad habit or learning a skill. This tradition has been going on for about 4,000 years now. The tradition is thought to have first started with the ancient Babylonians. They were reportedly the first to hold celebrations to honor the new year which for them started in the middle of March and not January. This was because of the planting season of their crops. They held a twelve-day religious festival called Akitu. At this festival, the people would crown their new king or reaffirm their loyalty to the king already on the throne. At this festival, they would also make promises to the gods, pay their debts, and return any borrowed objects. These are their version of resolutions since they are resolving past issues before the new year begins. In this time, if the Babylonians kept their word, their gods would show them favor in the upcoming new year and if not, they would fall out of their god’s favor where no one back then wanted to be ever.

Future of New Year’s Eve Resolutions

In 1740, John Wesley, created Covenant Renewal Service. This service is also called watch night services. John Wesley was the founder of Methodism. His service was held on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. This service included Scripture readings and hymn singing instead of the rowdy celebrations that were normally held to ring in the upcoming new year. Protestant evangelical churches still hold this service and spend it praying and making their resolutions for the new year. What started as promises to gods has definitely changed into promises to oneself. Instead of pleasing the gods in the heavens above, people are pleasing themselves. People are making resolutions on this special day to improve themselves and we all know that most people fail to keep their resolutions. A survey was done and found that 45% of Americans made a resolution while only 8% actually kept their resolution. Maybe when they stopped making resolutions to the gods is when resolutions became unsuccessful? Just a thought. Even though people have been making resolutions for over 4,000 years, they have strayed away from the religious part of them. People have freedom of choice and can do whatever they want to within the law, but just maybe we should get back to the pleasing of the gods. Maybe more of our resolutions would stick and the world would become a better place for all of us to live in. That is definitely something to think about.

How January Became the Start of a New Year?

Throughout ancient civilizations around the world, there were many calendars being used that typically marked the first day of the year to either an agricultural event or astronomical event. Planting crops was an essential job since people need to eat in order to survive. Astronomy was thought to be linked to the gods which people made resolutions to for good favor in the upcoming new year. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The Chinese New Year occurred during the second new moon which was after the winter solstice. In Rome, the original calendar had ten months and 304 days. Each new year began at the vernal equinox. According to traditions, that calendar was created in the eighth century B.C. by Romulus who was the founder of Rome.

Over the centuries, that calendar had fallen out of sync with the sun. So, to solve the issue, Julius Caesar decided to consult with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which resembles the modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today. Julius Caesar was the emperor of Rome, made January the beginning of the new year around the year 46 B.C. January is named for Janus who is a two-faced god whose spirit that inhabits doorways and arches. Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, is significant to Romans since Janus looks backwards into the previous year and ahead to the future. The Romans offered deity and made promises to be good in the upcoming year. So, January is when the new year was set to begin and has ever since. Christians make this the day of thinking about their past mistakes and resolving to do better in the next year and so on. Also, Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1st as New Year’s Day in 1582.

History of New Year’s Eve Ball Dropping in New York’s Times Square

Roughly, one billion people from all around the world watch, year after year, the traditional brightly lit up ball drop down a pole that is sitting on the top of the One Times Square building at midnight on New Year’s Eve located in New York City. The world-famous celebration dates back to the year of 1904, when the New York Times newspaper relocated to what was then known as Longacre Square and convinced the city to rename the neighborhood in its honor. Adolph S. Ochs was the publisher of the New York Times then and he made sure the skyline of Manhattan was lit up as bright as possible with an amazing fireworks display. The newspapers twenty-five story building was surrounded by 200,000 people who filled up the streets at Broadway and 42nd Street. This intersection was called Times Square. At the end of the year, the publication’s owner threw a raucous party with an elaborate fireworks display. Unfortunately, the hot embers and ashes that fell from the sky that night led to concern for the safety of the people on the street and led to the banning of fireworks on New Year’s Eve after that. Mr. Ochs did not let the banning of fireworks stop him from planning a spectacular celebration. He knew that his party was taking away patrons of the Trinity Church, where the traditional church bells rang in the new year in Lower Manhattan. Since he could not have fireworks, he had to come up with something just as flashy but safer for the people watching from the streets below.

When the city banned fireworks in the year 1907, an electrician devised a wood-and-iron time ball that weighed roughly seven hundred pounds, illuminated by one hundred electric light bulbs, and was dropped from a flagpole at midnight on New Year’s Eve by workers using ropes and pulleys. Lowered almost every year since then, the iconic orb has undergone several upgrades over the years and now weighs in at roughly 12,000 pounds and lit up by many more lights. This tradition is still going on today as we are about to ring in the year 2023! Some things should never change, and this is one tradition we should keep doing. After all, if it is not broken, do not fix it!

Traditional New Year’s Eve Foods

At New Year’s Eve parties and celebrations all around the world, people of all ages enjoy meals and snacks thought to bring good luck, wealth, fertility, and prosperity for the upcoming new year. In Spain, and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people eat a dozen grapes which symbolizes their hopes for the months ahead and it must be done right before midnight. Tradition says that while you are eating your grapes, you must pay attention to the flavor. If any of them are bitter than that month for which you ate the grape will not be a good month. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s Eve dishes have legumes, which are thought to look like coins and are believed to bring about future financial success. Some examples are lentils in Italian households and black-eyed peas in the southern United States of America.

Pigs are thought to represent progress and prosperity because they move forward when they eat. They are also usually fat which will give the consumer a fat wallet. So, this is why in some cultures, pork appears on many New Year’s Eve tables like in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, and many other countries. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, with or without trinkets baked inside of them, symbolize that the year has come full circle and are found on the tables at the end of the meals in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece, and many other countries. If you get the piece of cake with the trinket, then you will have good luck for the year. In Sweden and Norway, a rice pudding dessert is made and has an almond hidden inside and is served on New Year’s Eve. Tradition states that whoever finds the almond can expect twelve months of good fortune.

Some more traditional New Year’s Eve foods that will bring you good luck and prosperity are collard greens. They are mostly eaten in the south and can be found just about anywhere since it is warmer in December. They are to be eaten because they look like money (green). Cornbread is also a southern tradition and should be eaten on New Year’s Eve since it resembles gold! Soba is a Japanese tradition, and it is said that it is eaten to symbolize long life. The noodles are made with buckwheat flour which stands for resiliency. These noodles are meant to be slurped since the luck and good fortune will run out if you break the noodle! Fish is another lucky meal to eat on New Year’s Eve. The scales represent coins. Since fish swim in schools, it is believed that eating fish will bring the eater an abundance of coins. Another reason to eat fish is because they swim forward which will help you move forward towards progress.

In Greek tradition, the families are supposed to throw a pomegranate at their front door at midnight. The more seeds that fall out the more luck and fertility will bless that house. If you decide to do this now, I strongly suggest putting your pomegranate in a plastic bag that seals shut to avoid a mess that you cannot clean up thoroughly. Dumplings, or jiaozi, are made the day before the Chinese New Year. They are made to look like gold ingots which is the ancient currency of China. When the dumplings are eaten, you will get good luck in the financial area of life. Oranges are also associated with the Chinese New Year. Fresh mandarin oranges will bring you prosperity. If you are lucky enough to get one that has the stem and a leaf still attached, then you will be blessed with long life and fertility. Sauerkraut is a German and Eastern European superstition food eaten to bring wealth. The more you eat of it, the more money you will have. Tamales are a Mexican traditionally eaten during the holiday season that symbolize family bonds since many generations gather to make them. Lastly, German Americans eat soft pretzels because they are said to bring luck into the new year. I do not know what the rest of you are eating on New Year’s Eve, but I am going to be taking a little of each food from each culture. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

New Year’s Babies are Special

What do Paul Revere, J. Edgar Hoover, Lorenzo de Medici, Betsy Ross, and Pope Alexander VI all have in common? All of these names are of people with historical significance that came into this world on January 1st. According to tradition, babies that are born on the first of the new year grow up to enjoy the luckiest of lives as well as bringing joy and good fortune to all of those around them. 

The use of a baby as a person representing the new year has been traced all the way back to ancient Greece. Back in those times, an infant was placed in a basket and was paraded around town to mark the rebirth of Dionysus who is the god of wine and fertility. This tradition still holds true, but we do not actually parade a real baby around town anymore. Instead, the baby can be seen sometimes accompanied by Father Time on banners, in cartoon form, across posters and in greeting cards for the last several hundreds of years.

Historical Events That Happened on New Year’s Eve

New and exciting things happen every day all around the world. Some are overlooked while others are forever immortalized just because of the date that they happened. Here are some historical things that happened on this would be joyous day of December 31st or better known as New Year’s Eve.

Thomas Edison Demonstrates the First Incandescent Light Bulb in 1879

Even though Thomas Edison did not invent the incandescent bulb on December 31st, he did demonstrate it to the public for the first time on New Year’s Eve in 1879.  The incandescent bulb is one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century and has had an effect on basically any technological advance of the past couple of centuries. You can thank Edison’s incandescent bulb for giving you the light in your room so you can see what you are doing. After all, the lighted up ball that we all watch fall from Times Square in New York City would not be possible if it were not for Thomas Edison showing us what was possible with the light bulb.

President Truman Declares the Official End of World War II in 1946

Proclamation 2714 is the historical piece of paper that was signed by President Harry S. Truman on December 31, 1946. This paper has significant importance in history because it officially declared that all hostilities in World War II were to be over. The Second World War was one of the bloodiest and most violent wars in our history, and its end was a relief to millions of people all around the world. Even though that paper was signed to end the fighting, it did not actually end the war. Unfortunately, combat went on until May of 1945 in Europe and September of 1945 in the Pacific. What President Truman did was try to raise the morale of the people by signing the Proclamation 2714. The signing of Proclamation 2714 is important to many veterans and their families because the United States government uses its signing as an indicator of whether a soldier was a veteran of World War Two or not. Anyone who served between the dates of December 7, 1941, and December 31, 1946, is considered a WWII vet.

The Manhattan Bridge Opens in 1909 

The last of the three major bridges spanning the East River, the Manhattan Bridge, was opened on the joyous day of December 31st. The other bridges are the Williamsburg Bridge and the famous Brooklyn Bridge. The Manhattan Bridge connects Manhattan with Brooklyn and the rest of metro New York City. The Manhattan Bridge is a New York City icon and is an easily recognizable symbol for the city that never sleeps. The Manhattan Bridge took eleven years to construct and is still as sturdy and as beautiful since the New Year’s Eve Day it opened. It is now a major port of transportation for more than 100,000 people every day. People knew how to build things back in the day to last for a lifetime and then some! 

The Euro is Introduced in 1998 

As Europe moved from a loose gathering of independent nations to a more closely related group of countries known as the Eurozone, it was only natural for a currency to appear that would be accepted in a majority of the Eurozone-based countries. The official release of the Euro was on New Year’s Eve of 1998. This change meant that the way people in seventeen different countries did business and made financial transactions was going to be different from now on. Although the Euro originally boomed as a currency, it eventually became unstable in the European market which led to its value weakening. At one time, the Euro was actually more valuable than the United States dollar for an extended period of time. Since the Euro was weak and unstable, there were talks in the works in regard to discontinuing the currency after only being in use for roughly fourteen years. Fast forward to 2022 and the Euro is still in use. The Euro can still be used in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. Each country in the world has an exchange rate that you can check online here.

New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest holidays of the year with people throwing elaborate parties and massive feasts of all of the food that will bring the eater good luck, a mass of wealth, an abundance of fertility, and prosperity. Cities put on amazing fireworks shows that will light up the entire sky for miles on end for the entire neighborhood to enjoy while some people decide to throw massive parties to celebrate the start of the new calendar year at their own home or a rented venue. Now that you know some interesting and important historical events that took place on December 31st, you can impress your friends, family, coworkers, and other partygoers with your knowledge of history while you wait for that infamous ball to drop and the New Year of 2023 to begin with a bang. No matter which way you decide to celebrate the new year, please make sure that you drink responsibly, surround yourself with loved ones, and make sure that you eat all of the right food, so your new year is better than your old year. Hold out your arms to hug Father Time goodbye and welcome Baby New Year into his new place. Happy New Year everyone. I wish you much love, wealth, health, good luck, prosperity, fertility if you are trying to have a child, safety, and blessings. See you all next year!

In case you are unable to make it to Times Square in New York City, you can watch the video below to see the infamous ball dropping over the last forty-nine years. It is a sight that you will not want to miss. Check it out and remember to drink responsibly and be surrounded by your friends and loved ones. Happy New Year!!!

About The Author

Julie Nocito

Julie is a freelance writer from upstate New York who currently lives in central Florida. Julie has been writing freelance works since she was in 11th grade and still enjoys doing it. Julie is able to write anything for you whether it be blogs, web content, business reviews and more. She will do her research in order to give thorough and honest information.

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