This New Year, thank the ancient Babylonians. The idea of observing a special day as the New Year was theirs, as many as 4,000 years ago, and it is considered the oldest of all holidays. Observing the New Year on January 1 is somewhat arbitrary, but the Roman senate first declared this date as the New Year in 153 BC.
The Babylonians were also the first to come up with the idea of New Year’s resolutions. These days, cultures throughout the world have their own New Year’s traditions (and observance dates). While watching the 1,200-pound Waterford Crystal ball drop in New York City is a common tradition in the U.S., the Spanish eat 12 grapes at midnight to encourage 12 happy months in the coming year.
In Britain, when the clock strikes midnight, everyone sings the Scottish song ‘Auld Lang Syne,” which means ‘times gone by’ and was written by Robert Burns in the 1700s. In Italy, people wear red underwear on New Year’s Day to bring good luck.
In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico, families may stuff a large doll, called Mr. Old Year, with memories and clothes from the past year. At midnight, they light him on fire to burn away the bad memories. (May we suggest checking local regulations before you burn an effigy in your yard?)
The Japanese hold Bonenkai or “forget-the-year parties” throughout December to bid farewell to the problems and concerns of the past year and prepare for a new beginning.
Some parts of the Middle East and Asia celebrate Nowruz (or New Day), albeit in spring. Celebrations often include bonfires and egg dying.
If you find yourself celebrating the New Year by using noisemakers and setting off fireworks (again, check the regulations, folks) to celebrate the New Year, you have that in common with people in ancient times, who believed that loud noises would scare off evil spirits and bring good luck.
No matter how you celebrate the New Year, all of us at Regents Bank wish you peace, prosperity and happiness for 2017.