Happy New Year Pandas! These words we use to wish friends and family on New Year’s Eve have a long and interesting history and yet we say them without thinking. In fact, it was not always this way as it was not even on the 1st of January that these words were originally said, and the date has changed more than once over time and depending on cultures and beliefs. For example, the beginning of the new Chinese calendar year depends on the moon; therefore it appears as a movable date in our calendar, changing each year. Celebrating the ‘New Year’ is the oldest celebration in the world with the first celebration dating back to Babylon over 4000 years.
The history of the Calendar
In the year 46 BC, Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar; the 1st January was the day when the New Year synchronized their calendar with the sun. The Romans dedicated this first day to Janus, god of gates, doorways and beginnings.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, this tradition began to alter throughout the Middle Ages with the dates for New Year differing by country. The English held New Year in March; the French on Easter Sunday and it was the Italians that used Christmas.
It was not until the introduction of the Gregorian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, that it was officially decided that the year will begin on the 1st January.
New Year Traditions
Many of us try to make New Year’s resolutions and this is a tradition dating back to the Babylonians. Although popular, many find it hard to keep our resolutions very long! What are your resolutions for 2011?
Greeting cards: In the Middle ages the greeting card made its appearance. In those days people would send a small present to their families with an accompanying hand-painted letter to wish them ‘seasons greetings’. This tradition completely disappeared in the sixteenth century but came back strong in the eighteenth century.
Kisses under the mistletoe: The gesture comes from a legacy of old traditions and beliefs as green foliage and evergreen mistletoe were thought to have supernatural powers as the leaves would ‘never die’. For Druids, mistletoe was happiness and was thought to provide certain things, allowing women to have children, guaranteeing a good harvest and protecting people from bad luck. Today, we have kept the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe on the Eve of the New Year to experience happiness and sentimental fun for those who are both married and single.
Food: Many cultures believe that eating something in the shape of a ring will bring luck as the circle symbolizes the completion of the cycle of one year. Many countries have different tradition to start the New Year.
The Dutch eat ‘oliebollen’ (see picture) on New Year’s Eve to be lucky while the Spanish eat grapes on each stroke of midnight. In Italy eating special food is thought to bring wealth and prosperity so buns, lentil dishes and cakes coated with honey are eaten!
Wiki Commons Picture: Original author: w:nl:Gebruiker:Teunie.
During the 12 strokes of midnight in Russia most people drink champagne and after 12 shots, open a window or a door so that the New Year can enter the house.
What traditional things do you do to celebrate the New Year?
Do you have any special traditions in your family, or from where you live?
I wish you all the very best for the New Year Pandas.
Love & Peace,