Why We Celebrate New Year’s Day

Happy New Year

New Year 2021

happy new year 2020English New Year
1st January 2021

Going to the very beginnings, like in pre-Christian Rome under the Julian calendar, Caesar dedicated 1st January, the first day of the year to honor Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Sacrifices were offered to Janus, gifts were exchanged with one another, homes decorated with laurel branches and raucous parties were attended.

Almost universally, New Year Celebrations usually begin on the evening of December 31 – New Year’s Eve and go on till the wee hours of January 1st dawn. The good-luck rituals that are woven into the traditions, however, vary around the world. People In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries gulp down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight. New Year dishes feature lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States because they are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success. Since pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, they appear on the New Year’s Eve table. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries dominate the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere since they put out a sign that comes out as a full circle. Sweden and Norway serve rice pudding with an almond hidden inside. The saying goes that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune. The Japanese bid farewell to their problems of the past year and prepare for a better one by holding the New Year’s Bonenkai (forget-the-year parties). Grudges are set aside and arguments and misjudgments are supposed to be resolved. Houses are scrubbed to keep out the bad vibes and bring in the good ones. Watching fireworks and singing songs, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” are the common worldwide customs to herald the New Year.

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The symbolism of New Year

One second past midnight this year, the day changes from Tuesday to Wednesday. A very normal transition that takes place every day of our lives like a transition from a second to a second, an hour to an hour, day to a day or month to a month. But, unlike this, is the transition from one year to the next. We attach a particular kind of uniqueness to this. This invariably unique tick of the clock has always urged us to celebrate and to step outside the mundaneness of our day to reflect, take stock, assess and resolve to do better. No other moment, except probably for birthdays, gets this sort of attention in a year. It is the most celebrated public holiday in the world and mostly heralded with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the New Year starts in each time zone.

Why such heavy symbolism attached to the New Year? In us, lies something significantly meaningful and important that we do not just invest our energy and resources in the celebrations but also in our efforts to make and keep up with a fresh set of resolutions, no matter how many times we fail to stick by it in the past. The powerful motivation that we unconsciously attach to this moment is the motivation to survive. We come to realize that we have made it through another 365 days. It is indeed high time that we raised our glasses and toasted our survival. The profoundness of making it past another 365 days will invariably sink in with a slight glance at the year-end obituary summaries of those who did not make it.

What’s special about the resolutions?

Along with traditions, the practice of making and keeping up with resolutions also started. This can be traced back to the time of the ancient Babylonians, who made promises to earn the favor of the Gods. They are merely the universal human desire to have some control over the future that lies ahead which is unsettlingly unknowable. We resolve to diet and exercise, to quit smoking, to start saving. It does not matter if we hold to our resolve. It’s the feeling of committing to them, even for a moment, that gives us the feeling of more control over the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Resolutions also include things like treating people better, making new friends and paying off debts. Back in history, the Babylonians would return borrowed objects. The Jews would seek and offer forgiveness. The Scots would visit neighbors to wish them well. Why all these social resolutions? It is indeed because of the innate desire in us as social animals to depend on others for our health and safety. Prayer too found a prominent place in the list of resolutions. An omnipotent force was believed to keep you safe with more prayer.

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