- 31 Dec 2020
- 10 minutes
One of the largest global celebrations, New Year’s Eve, is initiated on the 31st of December, which marks the end of the Gregorian calendar and the beginning of brand-new goals and hopes of selfbetterment in people. After a very chaotic 2020, the arrival of 2021 brings with it a promise of a fresh start and the expectation to compensate for the wasted potential of the previous year.
The history and origin of New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve – brief background information
Festivities regarding the new year are believed to date back as early as 4000 years ago (2000 BC) in ancient Babylon. The Babylonians celebrated the New Year in late March on a day with equal amounts of daytime and nighttime, and it was characterized by a colossal religious festival known as Akitu (originating from the Sumerian word for barley), which lasted 11 days. A different ritual was performed on each of these 11 days.
The Roman calendar at this time consisted of 10 months and later, two new months, namely Januarius and Februarius, were added, causing it to fall out of sync with the sun. However, in 46 BC, the emperor Julius Caesar rectified this problem with the introduction of the Julian calendar, a calendar which more closely resembles the Gregorian calendar used today. In this calendar, 1st January was established as the first day of the year in order to honor the Roman God Janus – whose two faces allowed him to look back at the past and forward into the future simultaneously.
The modern-day Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 but it was not until about 1752 that its use became more widespread in the United States. Like the Julian calendar, the Gregorian calendar starts on the 1st of January and ends on the 31st of December.
While common and casual language around the world often gets the two mixed up, wishing someone a “Happy New Years" implies that you are celebrating two years instead of one. Hence, the “s" should be avoided and the proper phrase, “Happy New Year" should be used instead.
New Year’s Eve is signified by various activities in different cultures. Parties, fireworks and light displays, toasting with champagne and gathering with your loved ones are the most common practices throughout the world, but some are slightly more unique.
For example, in Spain, locals eat exactly 12 grapes as the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve in the hopes of good fortune and prosperity in the new year.
In Scotland, locals believe that if the first person to enter through the threshold of their house after midnight on New Year's Day is a dark-haired male, then it brings good luck in the coming year.
In Brazil, white flowers and candles are thrown into the ocean on New Year’s Eve in order to make offerings to Yemoja, a water deity who is said to control the seas, to obtain her blessings for the new year.
In Turkey, it's considered good luck to sprinkle salt on your doorstep as soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Day. Like many other New Year's Eve traditions in the US and around the globe, this one is said to promote both peace and prosperity throughout the new year.
The Religious Significance of the New Year
Several religions present the beginning of the new year as a transitional period, where one can leave the past behind and look forward to what lies ahead. As detailed in the previous section, because of these socio-cultural and religious differences several cultures celebrate the new year in their own unique way.
In Christianity, new year’s day is a celebration of the naming of Christ and is originally intended to be a religious feast which shall take place on the first day of the Gregorian calendar. As most of the world still follows this calendar, the practice still continues throughout the globe and now even carries a metaphorical meaning for many, if not an explicitly religious one.
New Year’s Eve traditions in the United States – how do Americans celebrate?
Perhaps one the most prominent traditions to mark the beginning of the new year in the United States is the iconic ball-drop at midnight at New York City’s Times Square, which first started taking place in 1907. Millions of people from around the world gather to spectate this event. Cities across America perform similar versions of this ritual at a smaller scale. A countdown takes place on New Year’s Day in the last minute or seconds before the New Year begins. These countdowns can be tuned into through live television and internet broadcasts as well.
As the clock strikes midnight into New Year’s Day, people celebrate this event by exchanging hugs, kisses, and wishing each other a “Happy New Year” along with a new year’s toast.
Fireworks on New Year’s Eve
What is often seen as a fun way to pass time and celebrate the new year is actually more culturally significant and embedded into history than most of us know.The tradition of celebrating with fireworks and sparklers actually originated in China with the invention of the firework in the Seventh Century A.D. Since then, it has been a Chinese tradition to use fireworks at every joyous occasion to ward off evil spirits, including the Chinese new year! Hence, the practice caught on in several cultures, and while we might not remember it as warding off evil spirits, it is a comfort to know that the new year only brings forth happiness and light.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated around the globe to bid farewell to the previous year and to welcome whatever is in store for the next year. For some it is an important way to reflect on the events of the previous year and to challenge themselves to become a better version of who they used to be by making New Year’s resolutions.
“New Year, New Me"
The phrase “New year, new me” is commonly used as motivation to bring about these changes in oneself in the coming year. In some cultures, rituals are performed on new years eve in order to elicit blessings and good luck, while in others, it is simply a way to connect with friends and family and have a good time together.
How to celebrate New Year’s with your friends and family – some recommendations
Ball drops and salt sprinkles aside, some of the best, more low-profile activities you can try out this New Year’s Eve at a party with family and friends include but are not limited to:
1. New Year’s Eve Scramble: Write different words on a piece of paper related to New Year’s Eve and scramble the letters. Whoever guesses the most words correctly will win the prize.
2. Fun Photos: Take a picture of each of your guests with a camera. Have them make a silly face and be sure to tell them there is a prize for the best face. After all the pictures have been taken, download them to your computer or laptop and ask everyone to gather around the monitor. The winner will be judged on the greatest laughter.
3. Celebrity Hunt: Everyone writes the name of a celebrity, famous person, or character on a piece of paper and then they stick to the forehead of the player on their left (use tape or office Post-It notes). Make sure they don’t see the name. Now the game starts. Everyone else can see your forehead. The objective is to work out who you are. Going around the table, each payer takes a turn to ask the party questions about who they are – answers can be YES or NO only. If you get a YES you may continue asking, if you get a NO play moves on to the left. Last person to guess their name is the loser.
4. Have a huge indoor treasure hunt with clues: The kids will have a blast following the clues to get their treasure. If it is warm where you live, send them outside for parts of it.
5. Create your own time capsule: Put anything you want to remember along with your resolutions in a container and then hide it till next year
6. Word game: Whoever creates the most words out of the letters in Happy New Year, wins.
Places to visit on New Year’s Eve in the US – what is open on New Year’s Day?
Looking to party? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of the 7 best places to spend time at New Year’s Eve:
1. Honolulu, Hawaii: Watch fireworks over both Waikiki Beach and the Aloha Tower Marketplace with your family. The Kaka’ako Waterfront Park offers one of the best experiences for people of all ages.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada: The entire strip is shut down to vehicle traffic and transforms into one giant block party. At midnight, the casinos launch a choreographed firework display that puts the Times Square ball drop to shame.
3. Chicago, Illinois: Rides and attractions along with a kaleidoscope of colorful fireworks that are perfectly synchronized with music, that burst over Lake Michigan at Navy Pier.
4. Portland, Oregon: The Portland Champagne Ball is one of the most famous parties in the city and boasts 17 bars, four different themed rooms and 4 dance floors.
5. New Orleans, Louisiana: Jackson Square boasts the biggest party in town featuring live music all night long as well as a magnificent fireworks display. Instead of a typical ball drop at midnight, a giant fleur de lis descends from a 25-foot pole on top of a building and the fireworks light up the sky in sync to the music. The party continues on Bourbon Street
6. Los Angeles, California: The annual Cleopatra’s New Year’s Eve Ball at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood is always a hit where a DJ spins the hottest tracks, an LED light show takes place, and a balloon drop, and confetti blast kick off the new year.
7. New York City, New York: The city’s iconic public square – Times Square – is where most head to watch the ball drop.
Some of the best songs/movies to add to your playlist to start off New Year’s Day – the best socially distanced New Year’s Eve plan during COVID-19
For those who would rather kick back and relax at home this new year’s, here’s a list of the ten best songs you can play this New Year’s:
1. "Don't Start Now" - Dua Lipa
2. “Friends" - Justin Bieber, BloodPop
3. "Boogie" – Brockhampton
4. "All My Friends" - Snakehips ft. Tinashe and Chance the Rapper
5. "Paper Planes" - M.I.A.
6. "Lost In Japan" Remix - Shawn Mendes ft. Zedd
7. "This Is How We Do It" - Montell Jordan
8. "Nothing Breaks Like a Heart" (Don Diablo Remix) - Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus
9. "Old Town Road" - Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
10. "I Follow Rivers" (Magician Remix) - Lykke Li
A list of the ten best movies to watch this New Year’s:
1. “New Year’s Eve” (2011)
2. “Sleepless in Seattle’ (1993)
3. “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown” (1986)
5. “Four rooms” (1995)
6. ‘Waiting to Exhale” (1995)
7. “About time” (2013)
8. “Forrest Gump” (1994)
9. “Two Lovers” (2009)
10. “Are We There Yet” (2005)
What to do on New Year's Eve?
Overall, the most important part of New Year’s Eve is to do whatever makes you happy with the people who make you happy, whether you want to take it easy at home or go out and have (socially distanced) fun. Reconnect with your loved ones and don’t hesitate to make those New Year’s resolutions together and try to reach your goals. Stay safe and Happy New Year!