Celebrating the New Year
December 21, 2021

Ottawa Journal (December 21 – December 25, 2021)
David Tilson, M.P. (Dufferin-Caledon)

Another year is quickly coming to an end and we are now making plans for ringing in the New Year. There are many ways to do this, which is evidenced by the various celebrations that occur around the world. Fireworks and resolutions typically come to mind when we think of the most popular ways to celebrate, but there are also many other traditions and even many different foods that are eaten at New Year's.

    Cabbage is a popular New Year's food. When buttered or used as a wrap, cabbage and collards are intended to resemble money and bring good fortune in Denmark and in the southern United States. In Austria, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and much of South America, roasted pork is prepared as symbol of prosperity. Fish is often eaten in China and in northern and western Europe, as a traditional New Year's food and as a symbol of fertility. In Japan, herring roe is often eaten. Shortbread, oat cake, and fruitcake are given as gifts, in Scotland, for first-footing – the custom of being first through the door in the New Year. Lastly, 12 grapes and/or pomegranate seeds are eaten to ensure future prosperity in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and South America.

    Many cultures around the world also believe anything shaped like a ring will bring good luck because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year's cycle. It is for this reason that the Dutch believe eating donuts on New Year's Day will deliver good fortune.

    We've all heard the song “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight. It is a tradition found in most, if not all, English-speaking countries around the world, but many of us are unsure of where this tradition originated. It was at least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's and was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. This Scottish song literally means “old long ago” or simply put, “the good old days.”

    The most common tradition, making resolutions, dates back to the early Babylonians. It is said that their most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. Early Christians believed that the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on mistakes made in the previous year and resolving to improve oneself in the new year. Today, the most common resolutions are losing weight, quitting smoking, and overcoming debt.

    Fireworks are one of the most recognizable symbols of ringing in the New Year. It is believed that this tradition originated during ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and to bring good luck. The Chinese are said to have invented fireworks and continue to use them in incredible New Year's celebrations.

     No matter how each of us rings in the New Year, we all agree that it is a time for celebrating new beginnings; family and friends; and music. I wish you and all of your loved ones a wonderful New Year filled with much happiness, health, and prosperity!