Hello, 2011! We will celebrate your arrival by drinking heavily, wearing silly glasses and watching a giant ball drop. Why? Well, we didn’t just pull this out of a hat (though some of us will probably be wearing some crazy ones). New Year’s Eve has a rich history and different customs and traditions. We welcome you with open arms, 2011, and this is how and why we’ll do it…
The earliest recorded celebrations in honor of the New Year date back approximately 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. The New Year was celebrated during the first new moon following the vernal equinox in late March. The holiday was marked by a religious festival called Akitu and had a different ritual on each of its 11 days. During this time they also crowned a king.
When the early Roman calendar fell out of sync with the sun, Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the Gregorian calendar we use today. He instituted Jan. 1 as the first day of the year to honor the month’s namesake Janus, the Roman god of beginnings.
1904 was the first year Times Square had a New Year’s Eve celebration, which was meant to commemorate the official opening of the New York Times’ new headquarters. It was such a success that it immediately replaced the Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan as the “it” place to ring in the New Year.
The first New Year’s Eve ball was dropped in New York in 1907. It was made of wood and iron, and weighed 700 pounds. Today’s ball is made from Waterford Crystal and weighs more than 875 pounds. The ball didn’t drop in 1942 and 1943 due to wartime restrictions.
The most commonly sung song for English speakers on New Year’s Eve is “Auld Lang Syne.” It was first published by poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book Scots Musical Museum. He had transcribed it after he heard it sung by an old man in Scotland.
“Auld Lang Syne” became popular in the U.S. after Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians played the song at midnight at a New Year’s Eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929.
Some say that you are especially lucky if the first person you see after midnight is a tall man with dark hair. (I agree—amirite ladies?)
In Spain, it is tradition to eat 12 grapes at midnight. This is meant to ensure 12 happy months in the New Year.
According to the Washington Times, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to spend the night celebrating with a pet.