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Why Traditions? ...Why Conventions? The Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. He was always depicted with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new. The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year's Eve by giving one another branches from sacred trees for good fortune. Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common New Year's gifts. In the Middle Ages, Christians changed New Year's Day to December 25, the birth of Jesus. Then they changed it to March 25, a holiday called the Annunciation. In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar, and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January 1.
The tradition of the New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year. The New Year has not always begun on January 1, and it doesn't begin on that date everywhere today. It begins on that date only for cultures that use a 365-day solar calendar. January 1 became the beginning of the New Year in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar developed a calendar that would more accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars had.
The Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar calendars. Some cultures have lunar calendars, however. A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon. The Chinese use a lunar calendar. Their new year begins at the time of the first full moon (over the Far East) after the sun enters Aquarius- sometime between January 19 and February 21. Although the date for New Year's Day is not the same in every culture, it is always a time for celebration and for customs to ensure good luck in the coming year.
Present-day Traditions & Conventions :
The most important of all conventional traditions of the new year is holding parties which last until late into the night. It is traditional to greet the new year at midnight and celebrate the first minutes of the year in the company of friends and family. People may dance, sing, and drink a toast to the year ahead. After the celebrations, it is time to make new year resolutions, and these are a list of decisions about how to live in the coming year. Horns are blown at midnight, and people hug and kiss to begin the new year with much love and happiness.
In British Columbia, Canada, there is the traditional polar bear swim. People of all ages put on their bathing suits, and plunge into the icy cold water which surrounds Vancouver during the winter. The most commonly sung song for English-speakers on New Year's eve, "Auld Lang Syne" is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area of Scotland, Burns's homeland. It is often remarked that "Auld Lang Syne" is one of the most popular songs that nobody knows the lyrics to. "Auld Lang Syne" literally translates as "old long since" and means "times gone by." The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness, "For auld lang syne, we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet".
Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the
early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early
Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to
1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated the ripening of the
orange crop in California. Although the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in
1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports
centerpiece of the festival. The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was
their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the
annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.
Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to reevaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the new year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus. The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic representation of the new year was brought to early America by the Germans. They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century. Gift giving and whishing each other on this special day is a popular tradition. It's a wonderful way to start the year with your loved ones. New Year gifts can be anything depending on whom you are giving it. It is an expression of love, concern and good times you have shared together and acts as lucky charm for the coming future. Your gift can be theme based or something inspiring for your friend or relatives.
Global Good Luck Traditions : With New Year's upon us, here's a look at some of the good luck rituals from around the world. They are believed to bring good fortune and prosperity in the coming year.
AUSTRIA - The suckling pig is the symbol for good luck for the new year. It's served on a table decorated with tiny edible pigs. Dessert often consists of green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a four-leaf clover.
ENGLAND - The British place their fortunes for the coming year in the hands of their first guest. They believe the first visitor of each year should be male and bearing gifts. Traditional gifts are coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and a drink for the master. For good luck, the guest should enter through the front door and leave through the back. Guests who are empty-handed or unwanted are not allowed to enter first.
WALES - At the first toll of midnight, the back door is opened and then shut to release the old year and lock out all of its bad luck. Then at the twelfth stroke of the clock, the front door is opened and the New Year is welcomed with all of its luck.
HAITI - In Haiti, New Year's Day is a sign of the year to come. Haitians wear new clothing and exchange gifts in the hope that it will bode well for the new year.
SICILY - An old Sicilian tradition says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year's Day, but woe if you dine on macaroni, for any other noodle will bring bad luck.
SPAIN - In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, the Spanish eat 12 grapes, one with every toll, to bring good luck for the 12 months ahead.
PERU - The Peruvian New Year's custom is a spin on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the turn of the year. But in Peru, a 13th grape must be eaten to assure good luck.
GREECE - A special New Year's bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child, the second for the father of the household and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early that year.
JAPAN - The Japanese decorate their homes in tribute to lucky gods. One tradition, kadomatsu, consists of a pine branch symbolizing longevity, a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity, and a plum blossom showing nobility.
CHINA - For the Chinese New Year, every front door is adorned with a fresh coat of red paint, red being a symbol of good luck and happiness. Although the whole family prepares a feast for the New Year, all knives are put away for 24 hours to keep anyone from cutting themselves, which is thought to cut the family's good luck for the next year.
UNITED STATES - The kiss shared at the stroke of midnight in the United States is derived from masked balls that have been common throughout history. As tradition has it, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss is the purification into the new year.
NORWAY - Norwegians make rice pudding at New Year's and hide one whole almond within. Guaranteed wealth goes to the person whose serving holds the lucky almond.
Except for a very few number of people who can keep track of when the Chinese New Year should be, the majority of the Chinese today have to rely on a typical Chinese calendar to tell it. Therefore, you cannot talk of the Chinese New Year without mentioning the Chinese calendar at first. A Chinese calendar consists of both the Gregorian and lunar-solar systems, with the latter dividing a year into twelve month, each of which is in turn equally divided into thirty- nine and a half days. The well-coordinated dual system calendar reflects the Chinese ingenuity. There is also a system that marks the years in a twelve-year cycle, naming each of them after an animal such as Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Boar. People born in a particular year are believed to share some of the personalities of that particular animal.
Top 10 Most Common New Year Resolutions :
Stick to a budget
Save or earn more money
Find a better job
Become more organized
Be more patient at work/with others
Become a better person