The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon.
is also called by different names in different places. For instance it is called Hogmanay (Scotland), Silvester (Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and Italy) and Réveillon (Brazil).
The tradition of making New Year resolution dates back to the early Babylonians. According to statistics 40 to 45 percent of adults in Western societies make one or more resolutions each year. The top New Year's resolutions include weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking and better money management. By the second week of January, 25 percent of people have abandoned their resolutions.
The island nations of Kiribati and Samoa are the first to welcome the New Year while Honolulu, Hawaii is among the last places to welcome the New Year.
The Time Square New Year's Eve Ball came about as a result of a ban on fireworks. The first ball, in 1907, was an illuminated 317,5-kgs iron and wood ball adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs. Today, it is 3,6 meters in diameter and is bedazzled with 2,668 Waterford crystals. In 2012, the the ball had 288 new crystal panels, with doves chiselled into them to mark the theme "Let There Be Peace."
The tradition to smooch at midnight isn't a recent invention. According to old English and German folklore, the first person you come across in the new year could set the tone for the next 12 months. The superstition doesn't just apply to singles—if a couple ringing in the new year together doesn't lock lips, then the future of their relationship might not be all that bright. So be sure to plant one on your significant other when the ball drops!
Traditionally, it was thought that people could alter the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. It has, therefore, become important to celebrate first day of the New Year in the company of family and friends.
The New Year's drink of choice is Champagne, and over 300 million bottles of it are produced annually from the strictly defined Champagne region in France. While wine has been produced in Champagne for 2,000 years, the bubbly stuff can be traced back to the 17th century, when the cork, which captured fermentation gases, was developed. Despite popular belief, Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon did not invent Champagne.
It's a custom in some countries, like Mexico and Greece, to hide a prize inside of a New Year's cake—whoever finds it in their slice is guaranteed good luck in the year ahead. In Sweden and Norway, people take part in a similar tradition in which an almond is hidden in rice pudding. Honey-drenched treats are popular in Italy, to evoke a "sweet" New Year, while ring-shaped donuts (to represent coming full circle) are customary in Poland and Hungary.
Celebrants in Spain eat 12 grapes at midnight to ensure a fruitful year ahead, a tradition that began as a solution to a grape surplus in 1909. (The custom stuck and then spread to Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.) Each grape corresponds with a single month in the upcoming year: a sour second grape, for example, might foretell a bumpy February. The goal for most grape eaters is to swallow all 12 before the stroke of midnight.
Not everyone celebrates New Year's on January 1. Chinese New Year, for example, begins on the first day of the lunar calendar, which usually falls in either late January or early February. During this time, it is customary for each family to thoroughly cleanse the house in an effort to sweep away ill fortune, to eat Chinese delicacies such as "nian gao," or sticky rice, and to end the night with firecrackers. Red paper envelopes full of money are also distributed to the children at this time—one of the more popular traditions.
Read our article New Year Celebrations.
Sources: Wikipedia.org, History.com, Rampantscotland.com, Simpletoremember.com, Timeanddate.com, About.com
By Claudia Schalkx
Claudia is a multilingual consultant fluent in Spanish, English, Italian, and Dutch with over 25 years international experience in communications, public relations & marketing. She was born in Venezuela from Dutch parents, has lived and worked in Venezuela, Colombia, Curacao, St. Maarten, USA, Italy and The Netherlands where she resides. She is Colors Chief Editor. Her duties include content selection, revision & editing, finding and attracting collaborators, and identifying new business opportunities for Liberty Publications. More info
Infograghic: Filmagen / Images: "Janus", "Bacanal" by Tiziano, "The Annunciation" by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, "Pope Gregory XIII" portrait by Lavinia Fontana