Taking the time to welcome in the New Year is as American as apple pie. Nearly every city, in every state has some festivities planned and quite a few people are planning to host parties at their homes. Yet through all the planning, partying, kissing and next-day clean up, have you ever wondered how the whole idea of celebrating New Year’s Eve ever began? Better yet, did you know it didn’t start on January 1st?
Grab your Delorean, we’re going back in time!
How It All Began
Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on December 31 (New Year’s Eve), the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of January 1 (New Year’s Day). Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, making resolutions for the new year and watching fireworks displays.
Early New Year’s Celebrations
The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. In addition to the new year, Atiku celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat and served an important political purpose: It was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed.
We don’t know about you, but we’re getting some serious Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” vibes from Akitu’s story. We also are of the opinion that no one would want to keep their Christmas decorations up till March. It’s just tacky and we’re pretty sure against most Home Owner Association guide rules.
7 Strange Traditions from Around the World
1. Scarecrow burning – Ecuador
To banish any ill fortune or bad things that happened in the past year, Ecuadorians set fire to scarecrows filled with paper at midnight on New Year’s Eve. They also burn photographs of things that represent the past year, which leads us to believe that New Year is just a thinly veiled excuse for Ecuadorian pyromaniacs to set things on fire.
2. Round things – Philippines
In the Philippines New Year is about one thing, and one thing only; cold hard cash. Hoping to bring prosperity and wealth for the year ahead, Filipino people try to use as many round things as possible to represent coins and wealth. Round clothes, round food, you name it; if it’s round, they want in.
3. Broken plates – Denmark
If you’re ever in Denmark and wake up to find a pile of smashed crockery outside your door, it’s probably New Year’s Eve. Unused plates are saved up all year, until the 31st of December when they are hurled at the front doors of your friends and family in a strangely vandalistic display of affection.
4. Eating 12 grapes – Spain
As the clock counts down to 12 and people around the world are preparing to watch fireworks and drunkenly kiss each other, Spaniards are staring at bunches of grapes with a steely gaze. This challenge involves stuffing your face with 12 grapes, one for every ring of the bell. Succeed and you’ve got good luck for the year ahead.
5. Takanakuy Festival – Peru
This annual Peruvian festival held at the end of December is all about people beating the living daylights out of each other. Competitors face off in a ring for a round of bare-knuckle brawling, which is overseen by local policemen. Takanakuy literally means ‘when the blood is boiling’, but apparently all of the fights are friendly, and represent a fresh start for the year.
Think the countdown of 12 rings takes too long? Try 108 on for size. In Japan bells are rang 108 times in a Buddhist tradition that is believed to banish all human sins. It’s also good luck to be smiling or laughing going into the New Year, but who knows how you can be in a good mood after having to sit through that prolonged ringing.
7. Colored underwear – South America
In South American countries such as Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil, your fortunes for the year ahead are all decided by your underpants. Those who want to find love wear red underwear for New Year, whilst gold diggers should opt for yellow, which brings wealth and luck. If you’re just after a bit of peace for the New Year, some white pants should do the trick nicely.