From ancient Babylon to modern day, from ring shaped food to black-eyed peas, from a day of reflection to scaring off evil spirits, each individual, culture and religion has it’s own way of ushering in the new year.
New Years Day has been traced back 4000 years to Babylon (around 2000 BC) when the New Year was celebrated at the first new moon after the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. The festivities varied but the celebration lasted for 11 days.
The Romans celebrated in March, but a string of emperors changed the calendar until the date was out of sync with the sun, and the beginning of spring. Finally, in 153 BC, the Roman Senate declared January 1st the start of a new year. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar created what’s known as the Julian Calendar, again placing January 1st as the beginning of the year. In order to accomplish this, the previous year lasted 445 days!
In Burghead, a fishing village in Scotland, the New Year is celebrated on January 11th, the date of the New Year on the original Julian Calender. The celebration begins with a bonfire of casks, split in two. One cask is nailed together and filled with tar, inflammables and wood. The Clavie is lit, paraded around town and brought to a Roman altar, known as a Douro, and creates the bonfire. As the burning pieces fall, the locals collect a piece to start their New Year’s fire. Charcoal is collected and placed in the chimneys to keep spirits and witches from coming in the chimney.
The Chinese New Year is celebrated between January 21st and February 20th. In mythology, the Chinese New Year was said to begin because of a mythical beast called Nien. Nien came to the villages when the New Year began to devour crops, livestock and people. So the villagers began leaving food outside their doors on that day, believing he would be too well fed to eat them. Someone reported that they had seen Nien run in fear from a small child wearing red. They began hanging red lanterns and red spring scrolls at doors and windows to frighten him away. They also used firecrackers. Eventually an ancient Taoist monk named Hongjun Laozu captured the Nien, but the traditions continued. The celebrations last for 15 days, each day having it’s own meaning and celebration.
In many Asian counties, long noodles are eaten on New Years Day, celebrating long life. You can’t break the noodle before it’s all in your mouth!
In countries such as Spain and Austria pork is seen as a good luck food, for progress and prosperity.
Across Italy, lentils are eaten for good fortune as they resemble coins and plump in the water. Black-eyed peas are eaten in the southern US for the same reason. For a great way to eat your black-eyed peas see Elizabeth Kelly’s Spicy Hoppin’ John recipe!
Fish is eaten in North America, Asia and Europe to symbolize moving forward and abundance.
In Mediterranean countries, pomegranates symbolize abundance and fertility.
How did you celebrate your New Years Day? Leave a comment.
For more Mesa History subscribe by email. Questions, comments? Leave ’em below or email me: email@example.com