What's new is old and hopefully betterThursday, January 03, 2013 by: Connie Carello
People often greet a new year with optimism because they regard the time as an opportunity for a fresh start to a new and exciting beginning.
For many, the celebration of a new year affords them a chance to reflect on the year previous and make note of changes they can make as they form their new year’s resolutions.
But where did it all start?
Where did the symbols of a festive new year come from?
The iconic ball dropping in time square, the counting down of the final seconds, the popping of champagne, and that special midnight kiss all find their origins in customs from years gone by.
Several decades ago, avid Catholics would celebrate the passing of the year by counting down the last seconds in silence.
After mass, patrons would enter into prayer and count down the final seconds of the year.
At the stroke of twelve they would thank God for the bountiful blessings they had received the year previous and for the opportunity to start again.
Our American neighbours were much more boisterous than the Catholics of years gone by.
At the stroke of twelve, many would rush outside with friends and family to shoot guns into the night sky, signaling to others that the beginning of a new year had arrived and that they were welcoming it with “bang-makers.”
Now, party favours that are significantly quieter and safer than shooting off guns in the air are found at New Year's Eve celebration events and used to make a bang at the stroke of midnight.
The importance of noise at a new year’s celebration arose around the early 16th or the 17th century when it was believed that shouting, or making noise would ward of evil spirits and welcome the new year free from negativity.
Similarly, the traditional new year’s kiss at midnight spurred from a superstition which dates back to well before the 19th century.
That superstition said that, if you didn't kiss someone at the stroke of midnight on the celebration of a new year, you would spend the following year wanting for affection.
Superstitions revolving around the choice of food also used to affect the way the holiday would be celebrated.
Some people feasted on black eyed peas, ham, or cabbage, the last evening of the year because they believed the more they ate, the more good fortune or luck they would have in the new year.
Chicken and turkey, however, which are common holiday meals today, were thought to bring about misfortune.
Watching the ball drop in Times Square originally started in 1907.
The New York Times Newspaper company officially opened in Times Square in 1904 and wanted to celebrate their new headquarters with fireworks.
Although nearly 200,000 people were in attendance the newspaper demanded a larger audience for the following year and came up with an idea for a large spectacle to attract more people - a giant ball made of iron and wood would descend a flag pole during the final seconds of the year.
Whether you rung in 2013 watching the ball drop, eating ham and cabbage, with loud, boisterous friends, or in the quiet, calm still of your own home, may you have a wonderful and prosperous new year and may it better than the last!