Tradition ushers in the new year

(RNN) – In a couple of days, a ball will drop, corks will pop, toasts will be made, and resolutions will be declared and in some cases, broken immediately.

New Year’s celebrations date back to ancient Babylon – some 4,000 years ago. However, the Babylonians, as well as other ancient cultures, celebrated the New Year on the vernal equinox. Thank Julius Caesar for changing the New Year to Jan. 1 to honor the Roman god Janus, the god of new beginnings.

True to Roman debauchery, they threw some extremely non-family friendly parties to celebrate.

New beginnings are why many people make resolutions, especially to try and improve one’s health.

“Diet worked for me this year,” Laura Pery wrote on KFVS’s Facebook page. Pery lost 35 pounds and resolves to use the treadmill more in 2012.

Ed Fox said that he quit smoking for his 2011 New Year’s resolution and has stuck to it.

But before the resolutions are made, many celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another in a similar fashion.

In the United States, many of the New Year’s traditions have been around for more than a century, even reaching back into English and European traditions – some of which are to usher in the new year with good luck or to ward off the bad.

The first New Year’s Eve celebration in the United States was held in New York City’s Times Square in 1904.

he New York Times moved into a new building on Longacre Square and the owner of the paper, Adolph Ochs, lobbied the city to change the name of the area to Times Square. To celebrate the newspaper’s new digs, Ochs’ set off fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve. After a couple of years, the city nixed the fireworks, so in 1907 Ochs’ hired a sign maker to make a ball to be lowered, and thus the tradition was born.

According to the Times Square Alliance, the ball was made of wood, iron and 100 25-watt light bulbs. This year, the ball weighs 11,875 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and is made out of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, 32,256 LEDs (light emitting diodes).  The ball has had a bit of an upgrade since the first drop, and has spawned lots of “ball drops” throughout the country.

Another tradition – well, at least since 1972 – has been “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” Clark missed ushering in 2005 because of a stroke, but the now 82-year-old returned in a limited role, and ABC brought on Ryan Seacrest to help with hosting duties.

If you’re celebrating at a party or watching the ball drop on television at home, you will probably attempt to sing the tune “For Auld Lange Syne” at midnight. “For Auld Lange Syne” means “times gone by” and is a Robert Burns poem put to music. Singing the song was popularized in 1929 by band leader Guy Lombardo at a New Years Eve celebration in New York City.

Celebrants are supposed to link arms and sing the song – but very few people know the words and those who are singing the loudest may also be holding up those who’ve had too much Champagne.

The Champagne toast to the good health and happy New Year is similar to the 18th century English drinking spiced wine, according to The History Channel. The term “Wassail” is Gaelic for “good health,” and toasting to health seems a good way to usher in the new year.

And if you’ve drunk enough Champagne to give yourself liquid courage to kiss someone, superstition has it that smooching at midnight will either strengthen your relationship with that person or that the kiss will keep you from being lonely that year. said because of the ancient Roman celebration, we have kissing – which is really, really toned down from the debauchery of the Romans. Really toned down.

On New Year’s Day, many people in the U.S., especially in the southern states, eat Hoppin’ John; a dish of rice, black-eyed peas, greens – usually collard greens, but mustard, turnip or any green will do – and sometimes bacon or a pig jowl. The black-eyed peas and greens represent money; the peas as pennies and the greens as dollar bills, and the ham or bacon for health.

Other traditions which all seem to have the theme of a clean slate and apply to people on an individual level include making sure all bills are paid so that the household has no debt and will enjoy prosperity through the year, a clean house, no dirty laundry, and no garbage is in the house. However, some believe you can’t take out the trash on New Year’s Day.

“In our household once it hits midnight New Years Eve (technically midnight New Year) to midnight the following night (midnight Jan. 2, 2012), you can’t take any garbage out of the house. If you do, then in the New Year someone will leave your house in a body bag,” Anna Hoffman wrote on the Fox19 Facebook page. “It may just be an old wives tale, but we aren’t going to be the ones to prove it wrong.” 

Whether, you toast to health, eat Hoppin’ John, watch some object drop on New Year’s, good will and a good time seem to be a theme. Just be careful not to over-indulge.

“First I thank Jesus, then I thank God. Then I get drunk, and I curse Jesus, and God. I wake up in the New Year and beg Jesus and God for forgiveness. Repeat every New Years Eve,” Dustin Masterson said.

Copyright 2011 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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