New Year’s Day has become a favourite holiday that is celebrated with religious, cultural, and social observances around the world. It is a time marked with fresh starts, resolutions, and renewed optimism. It’s also typically marked by rites and ceremonies that symbolize the shedding of the old and the ringing in of the new regardless where it’s celebrated.
Most of the world recognizes January 1st as the start of a new year because the Gregorian calendar (from its papal origins of 1582), has become the international reference for treaties, contracts, and various other legal documents. In most countries, the day is a holiday and is a holy day for those who have retained the Julian calendar, which includes followers of the Eastern Orthodox churches.
New Year’s celebrations vary around the world. In England and Scotland, the holiday is marked by an extra round of football games (unless New Year’s Day falls on a Friday or Sunday). In Austria, the day is celebrated with the Vienna New Year’s Concert. Many northern hemisphere countries celebrate the day by hosting polar bear dips. The Coney Island Polar Bears Club, in New York, is the oldest cold-water swimming club in the United States. They’ve carried on this tradition since 1903. The United States is also known for its Tournament of Roses (which dates back to 1886). It is held with revelers viewing the parade from the streets, as well as on television, followed by the Rose Bowl football game.
The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year dates back to approximately 600 B.C. in Greece. During that time, the tradition celebrated Dionysus, the God of Wine. A baby in a basket would be paraded around, representing the annual rebirth of the god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.
In the past, it was also thought that one could affect the amount of luck they would have throughout the year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. Since that time, it has become a common tradition for people to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year together with family and friends. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day could bring either good or bad luck for the rest of the year.
January 1st is also used as a time for the media to review and reflect on the events of the previous year. Many comment on the topics of politics, popular culture, natural disasters, as well as prominent figures that passed on during the past year.
Another common tradition of New Year’s is for many of us to make New Year’s resolutions that we hope to fulfill in the coming year. The most popular or common resolutions in the Western world include: to stop smoking or drinking, to lose weight, to become physically fit, or to spend more time with family and friends, to overcome debt, or to become more organized.
Whatever your New Year’s resolutions or celebrations may include, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a wonderful New Year’s and a fantastic 2008, filled with happiness and prosperity!