Countdowns, resolutions, and fireworks are what would come to your mind when someone talks about New Year’s Eve. Hardly a week after Christmas, the world welcomes a new year with many positive resolutions to look forward to.
You must have noticed television and social media screens flooding with every country’s tradition of celebrating New Year’s Eve or with people planning evening parties or trips to celebrate this occasion.
This day holds significance for the entire world because it means saying goodbye to the current year and welcoming the New Year with joy and happiness.
So what caused New Year’s Eve to become so popular?
The Origins of Celebrating New Year’s Eve
Believe it or not, the earliest recorded history of something resembling a New Year’s Eve celebration was nearly 4000 years ago in ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first full moon comes after the day when the Sun is above the equator, making night and day of equal length. New Year’s Eve is historically known as Old Year’s Day or Saint Sylvester Day.
Hence, by that account, the first New Year was celebrated at the end of March in the Gregorian calendar. The Babylonians celebrated this occasion with a religious festival named Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word known as barley, a crop harvested in the spring season). Akitu would be celebrated over an 11-day period, with each day having a different ritual. The festival also celebrated the Babylonian sky god Marduk’s victory over the evil sea goddess Tiamat. Hence, it became a symbol of appointing a new ruler over the people.
Development of the New Year
So it is no surprise that New Year’s Eve celebrations became so popular because as developments in calendars started occurring, the first day of the year was equated to a specific event. This event could either be an astronomical one or an agricultural one.
An example of this is in Egypt, where the New Year would begin with the annual flooding of the Nile, which would coincide with the rising of the star named Sirius. At the same time, the Chinese New Year would begin with the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Putting 31st December as New Year’s Eve
The ancient Roman calendar had only consisted of 10 months and 304 days. That means the New Year would begin at the vernal equinox when night and day were of equal length. It was only in the 8th century B.C. that the months January and February were added. But years later, the calendar was no longer in sync with the movements of the Sun, and hence, Julius Caesar decided to intervene. He consulted with prominent astronomers and mathematicians who developed a Julian calendar similar to the Gregorian calendar used worldwide today.
This caused 1st January to be instituted as the first day of the year to honor the month’s namesake ‘Janus,’ the Roman God of beginnings. This decision was instituted as a public holiday at the end of the 16th century by Pope Gregory XIII. Hence, making 31st December New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve Celebrations Observed around the World
New Year’s Eve is a momentous occasion associated with happy endings and new positive beginnings. It is no wonder that the entire world unanimously celebrates this day, welcoming the New Year with fireworks, evening parties, and New Year resolutions.
In many countries of the world, New Year Eve’s celebrations begin from evening onwards and continue into the early hours of 1st January. People who are celebrating will often indulge in snacks and feasts known to bring them good luck.
United States of America
In the United States of America, the New Year Eve’s celebrations begin with formal parties, concert events, family-based activities, and public events such as fireworks or drops consisting of a crystal ball. This is also considered America’s most popular New Year Eve celebration, where a crystal ball is dropped at New York City’s Times Square inspired by time balls that signified a time signal. Other country areas famous for this occasion’s celebrations are ‘Las Vegas Strip’s America’s Party’ consisting of a ticket-based concert and a public fireworks display at midnight.
Within Europe, New Year’s Eve celebrations are dominated by family events in Belgium and Austria. In Belgium, family events are known as ‘revisions. Within Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Denmark, evening parties are held in pubs, clubs, or on the streets. The first few minutes of midnight, people generally tend to toast to the New Year by opening a bottle of champagne. Whereas in Greece and Netherlands, the New Year’s Eve is celebrated with ring-shaped cakes and pastries. The shape denotes that the year has come full circle.
In Asian countries like Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, people move to the streets, clubs, and beaches to celebrate New Year’s Eve while watching the fireworks display in the sky. Within Hong Kong, a 60-second countdown to New Year’s consisting of LED lights and pyrotechnic display effects. Shopping malls are also a major celebration area in this country. In Japan, people clean their homes to welcome Toshigami, the New Year’s God, on New Year’s Eve. With bells ringing in Buddhist temples 108 times at midnight.
Within Rwanda, Ghana, South Sudan, and Nigeria, New Year’s Eve are celebrated by visiting the church, followed by evening parties at the clubs organized by communities or even the State. In South Africa, people vote for the top 10 music before New Year’s Eve; the song with the most votes is played on all radio stations.
Our Final Thoughts
New Year’s Eve is a time of reflection, celebration, and goals. Every person has their own way of looking at the past year and setting goals for themselves for the New Year. So put on your Fancy New Year’s Sunglasses (Amazon ASIN #B08ML2GFV8) and dance to the music until midnight. But, don’t forget to make a New Year’s Resolutions for the next year!