New Year’s History and Traditions

New York Ushers In New Year With Celebration In Times SquareNew Year’s Eve is here, and, depending on your outlook, you might see it as the last hurrah of the holiday season or a merciful release from two months of hubbub and gluttony. Either way, here is a quick look at the origins and some of the traditions of new year celebrations via resources available in eLibrary.

The earliest commemorations of the new year go back 4,000 years to when ancient Mesopotamians held an Akitu festival near the time of the vernal equinox. Today, the Persian calendar new year, Nowruz, is still celebrated at the spring equinox in Iran and parts of the Caucasus, Central Asia and China.

In much of the world, the start of the new year is observed on January 1. This stems from widespread adoption of the Gregorian calendar., which was instituted by Pope Gregory in order to standardize the day on which Easter was celebrated.

TET Festival, Lunar New Year In VietnamAsia has many different new-year celebrations, including Thailand’s Songkran purification festival, featuring mass water fights, and Chinese New Year, a lunar-calendar event known for its lion dances and fireworks and is observed in many countries on the continent and by Chinese communities around the world. This article provides a sampling of traditional Asian new-year foods.

The traditions and beliefs associated with the New Year’s Eve and Day are seemingly endless.

In the U.S., the ball drop in Times Square at midnight is the culmination of the New Year’s Eve party in New York City and for the rest of the East Coast. The ball drop has inspired other “drops” of items, including a possum drop in North Carolina. After the ball descends, there is often singing of Auld Lang Syne, the lyrics for which are attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns, and lots of kissing, a tradition that is traced back to the ancient Romans and their Saturnalia and winter solstice festivals.

Since New Year’s Day is seen a chance for a new beginning, it has become customary for people to make resolutions for the coming year. Having trouble keeping promises to get in shape, work harder or be nicer? Try shooting for achievable resolutions or “unresolutions.”

There are many more New Year’s customs and superstitions to be discovered in eLibrary; just start searching. Here are some round-ups to get you started: article 1, article 2, article 3. Also, see our New Year’s Eve/Day Research Topic, which, like thousands of other RTs, can be found by typing an exact-match phrase in the eLibrary search box (note the drop-down list as you are typing) and by clicking the Browse Research Topics button below the Basic Search area.


Jim Zelli

Jim Zelli has been with ProQuest since 1989 and with eLibrary since 2004.

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