To you, our many readers from 70 countries around the world, may we wish you a very Happy New Year filled with happiness, health, love and prosperity! We would like to thank you for taking the time to read our blog and hope that it will continue to make you smile throughout 2011!
Celebrating the start of a new year is one of the oldest festivals in the world, irrespective of whether it is celebrated on 1 January or on a date set by the lunar calendar. It is a time for new beginnings, reflecting on the past and looking ahead to the future.
The Babylonians were the first people on record in 2000 BC to herald the start of a new year in the spring, after the first new moon of the Vernal equinox. It is from the Babylonians that we have our custom of making New Year’s resolutions! Our present day celebration of 31 December dates to the Romans, who, in an attempt to reset the calendar (which was out of synch with the sun), devised a system which set the start of the New Year at 1 January.
In most cultures, the start of the New Year is considered a new beginning. Old Father Time slips away to be replaced by a young baby, a tradition that dates to the time of the Greeks who celebrated the rebirth of Dionysus, the god of wine. To ensure a happy “rebirth”, bad luck and evil spirits must be chased away so that the New Year can start without any old baggage. People open windows or doors to let bad luck out … houses are cleaned before the start of the year to brush away the old together with the dirt — but do not clean your house or wash your clothes after midnight or you will brush away all the new luck as well. Noise is essential –whether you bang on the walls (as they do in Ireland) or pots and pans (as they do in the Middle East) or shoot off fireworks — the idea is to scare away any evil spirits that might be lurking about.
What you eat and drink is very important to ensure a Happy New Year. In the southern US, eating black-eyed peas and greens is said to bring good luck. In Italy , where New Year’s Eve is known as Capodanno (the head of the year) or San Silvestro, lentils (symbolizing money and good fortune) are eaten with Cotechino (a large spicy Italian sausage) or Zampone (a stuffed pig trotter), symbolizing richness for the new year. In Germany cabbage or sauerkraut is served. In France it is foie gras. In Greece, 12 grapes are eaten, one for each month of the year. If there are any sour grapes in the batch, then those months of the coming year could be unfortunate ones.
Champagne or sparkling wines are the drinks of choice to welcome in the New Year, as people toast their friends and families. And kissing! Lots of kissing to ensure love and happiness throughout the year.
So whether you ring in the New Year in Sydney or Beirut, Rome or New York, Santiago or Honolulu, may 2011 exceed your wildest expectations.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!