The History and Customs of New Years Day


vin new year

Did you know that new year is the oldest holiday in existence and that it has not always been celebrated on January 1st? It's true! During ancient times, the new year rang in during a different season all together.


About 4,000 years ago the Babylonians welcomed the new year during the spring with the first visible signs of the new moon directly following the vernal or spring equinox. Being sensible thinking people, they seen the time of renewal, rebirth and the planting of crops as the perfect time to place the new year on their calendar. This is the only time during known history that the new year has had any astronomical significance.


This Babylonian version of New Year lasted for eleven days and each day had its own special type of festivities. In contrast, today's New Year celebrations are far more toned down and mundane.

In late March, the Romans continued this holiday tradition. However, the Roman calendar was always being messed with the suit the whims of different emperors and before long the calendar was completely out of sequence with the sun.

In 153 BC, the Roman senate attempted to correct their calendar order to set the calendar right, declaring the new year to be a new date. Thus began, today's current day of ringing in the new year, January 1st. Up until 46 BC when Julius Caesar came into power and the calendar became known as the Julian Calendar it was continually tampered with. The Julian Calendar once again set the New Year for January 1st. The problem still remained that the calendar no longer synchronized properly with the sun and so, Julius Caesar allowed the previous year run for another 445 days.

During the first several centuries AD, the Romans carried on their celebrations of the New Year. However, the primitive Catholic Church damned the celebratory nature of New year and deemed it as being Pagan. Later, Christianity spread and the church finally grew to observe most Pagan holidays, including New Year. The initial Christian acceptance of New Year celebrated the circumcision of Jesus Christ with a grand feast. This tradition is still observed by a few denominations within the Christian faith.

During what is now known as The Middle Ages, the Christian Church continued to condemn the celebrations of New Years. The western world has only celebrated January 1st as the New Year for about 400 years.



One of the most widely known and accepted traditions of New Year is the making of new year's resolutions. It is also one of the oldest of the traditions as it dates back to the most primitive of New Year traditions that the Babylonians participated in. Modern New Year resolutions are resolutions such as quitting smoking, budgeting better, saving money or losing weight. The Babylonians most popular New Year's resolution was to be more diligent in returning farm equipment that they had borrowed from their neighbors.

The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California.

Initially, the Rose Bowl was played as a portion of the Tournament of Roses during 1902, it was replaced the next year appropriately with Roman chariot races. In the year 1916, the football game made a come back as the center of attention to the festival.

A sure sign of birth and rebirth, the baby has been a long living symbol of the New Year. This tradition began about 600 BC in Greece. Dionysus, the Greek God of wine was honored by placing a baby in a basket and carrying it about to represent the spirit of fertility and the rebirth of the God. In very much the same way, early Egyptians also used an infant as a strong symbol of rebirth.

As with many Pagan oriented holidays, the church adapted their own version of the holiday. Seeing the baby as a way of celebrating the birth of Christ, the symbol became widely used with the Christian church as well.

Early America have the Germans to thank for the image of a baby placed on a New Year banner as a representation for the New Year. It has been used since the fourteenth century.

The Tradition of Bringing Luck Into The New Year


A strong belief that still exists for many today is that it was possible to bring oneself good luck for the coming year by controlling what an individual down or ate that very first day of the New Year. This is why it has become common for people to hold the first moments of the New Year celebration in the company of loved ones. It is said that whatever you are doing the moment the clock strikes midnight is a true reflection of how the rest of your year will go. And so, to ensure love and a healthy relationship, a customary kiss is necessary to properly ring in the new year.

Another belief is that the first visitor after midnight will offer a prediction of what luck the new year will hold. If the visitor is a welcomed one, the upcoming year will be lucky. If the visitor is unwelcome, the upcoming year will be filled with misfortune. A tall, dark and handsome visitor was thought to be especially lucky.

Foods eaten during the New Year celebrations have held great importance too. For example, it has been considered good luck for any object to be in the shape of a ring as it symbolized events coming full circle and being completed, just as the year's cycle was complete. Because of this belief, the Dutch eat donuts as a traditional New Year food, believing it will bring good fortune.

All over the world, the hog is considered lucky and a symbol of prosperity because of the animal's ability to feed many. Accompanying the hog, different types of legumes are added depending on the location of the feast. In the United States, black-eyed peas are the most commonly used. Some even add un-cooked black-eyed peas to their purse or wallet as they believe it will bring them fortune in the year ahead. Cabbage and rice are also considered foods that will bring prosperity as they are often representations of currency.

Music and New Years

At the stroke of midnight, "Auld Lang Syne" is traditionally played of sang in many, many places around the world. Written by Robert Burns in the 1700's and formally published in 1796 after Mr. Burns died, it is well-known and loved by every English-speaking country on earth. Burns wrote this version based on the inspirations he received from many other variations of the old Scottish song, "Auld Lang Syne" which translates to "The Good Old Days" or "Old Long Ago."


The lyrics to this traditional New Year song are as follows:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,

For auld lang syne!

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,

And gie's a hand o thine,

And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,

For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,


For auld lang syne!