What Does the New Year Mean?

Danilo Rizzuti

Celebrating the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first practiced in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (the first day of spring).

The beginning of spring is a reasonable time to start a new year. Besides, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming.  January 1, in contrast, has no astronomical or agricultural significance. It is absolutely arbitrary.

Bringing Luck
Traditionally, it was believed that someone could influence the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for people to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year with family and friends. Parties often last until the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once thought that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Witthaya Phonsawat

Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. As a result, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune.

Many parts of the United States celebrate the new year by eating black-eyed peas. These legumes are usually accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.

Raine would like to wish you a very happy and healthy 2012!

Source:  30 December 2011. http://wilstar.com/holidays/newyear.htm.

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