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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The New Year

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 31, 2006

  

The Babylonians first observed the start of a New Year around 2000 B.C.

 

At that time, the New Year was considered to be the start of spring, the season of rebirth with the planting of crops and the blossoming of flowers and trees.

 

The Romans also observed the New Year in the spring, but as Roman Emperors tampered with the calendar, the observance was out-of-balance with the seasons.

 

In 153 B.C., the Roman Senate declared January 1 to be the New Year.

 

In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar established the Julian calendar expanding the previous year to bring the seasons into balance with the calendar.

 

Before the Georgian Calendar was adopted, the New Year was permanently set as January 1.

 

Over the past century, the day before New Year's Day has become as important to the beginnings of the New Year as the year itself.

 

The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena dates to 1886 when the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers to celebrate the ripening of the orange crop in California.

 

Today, that is a traditional celebration of the New Year, with the Rose Bowl football game played since 1916, replacing Roman chariot races.

 

The use of a newborn baby to symbolize the New Year began in Greece around 600 B.C.

 

The Germans introduced the baby symbol on the New Year's banner, and brought its use to early America.

 

Today, we believe that anyone born on January 1 will have luck on his or her side.

 

Because of the connection between New Year's Day and the rest of the year, many practices have begin relating to New Year's Day and its events.

 

The New Year should begin with our cupboards full; to show the way it will be the entire year.

 

The New Year should begin with no debts owed; all debts should be paid before January 1.

 

The first person to enter your house after the stroke of midnight will influence the year you will have.

 

The interpretations of the "first footer," or the "lucky bird," vary widely around the nation, but all agree that the person must leave by a different door.

 

Nothing leaves the house on New Year's Day, not even the garbage.  Make other arrangements for things you need to take with you that day.

 

The American South says that black-eyed peas need to be eaten on New Year's Day; in the North it is sauerkraut, or cabbage.

 

Wearing new clothes on New Year's Day increases the likelihood that you will receive more new garments during the year.

 

Don't break anything, or cry on New Year's Day or it will set a bad tone for the year.

 

Open your doors before midnight of the New Year, to allow the old year to escape, and make noise at midnight to scare away any evil spirits that remain.

 

If there is no wind during the early hours of the New Year, a joyful and prosperous year may be expected by all.

 

If the wind does blow, the direction of that wind will tell the tale of the New Year.  (But on one agrees on which direction means what)

 

Various world cities have numerous ways to celebrate the New Year.  The most notable is the century-old dropping of a lighted ball in New York City.

 

Being lowered the last minute of the old year; the 1,070-pound Waterford Crystal Ball descends atop Times Square to mark the New Year.

 

Add your own traditions to the New Year, and Happy New Year to all!