On each continent throughout the world and in nearly every country, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve are commemorated in some way. Even in places like Japan and Israel, which use their own calendar systems, there are still lively celebrations to mark the end of the Gregorian year.
This year, we’ve explored some fun facts about New Year’s celebrations. We found some fascinating information and 10 New Year’s facts that you might not know.
1. Julius Caesar Deemed January 1 New Year’s Day, But It Didn’t Stick
The editorial team at History.com informs us that Julius Caesar decided to reform the Roman calendar when he became ruler in the year 45 B.C. That year, Caesar led the Roman Republic in the first New Year’s Celebration on January 1.
After a while, however, folks stopped celebrating the new year on January 1. This was partly because when Julius Caesar’s astronomy expert was creating the Julian calendar, he miscalculated the precise number of days in the year by 11 minutes. Year after year, this 11- minute miscalculation led to an imprecise determination of the actual first day of the year.
By 1582, the slightly inaccurate Julian calendar didn’t match up so well with the seasons and the solar year. Under Pope Gregory XIII, the Gregorian calendar was established to provide greater accuracy. At that point, New Year’s Day was reintroduced and has remained a January 1 celebration throughout the world.
2. Worldwide, It Takes More Than a Full Day for the Year to Change
According to the timekeeping authorities at Time and Date AS, “With 38 different local times in use, it takes 26 hours for the new year to encompass all time zones.”
Samoa in the South Pacific and Australia’s Christmas Island experience the turn of the New Year earliest, on the morning of what the United States and Canada would consider the morning of New Year’s Eve at 2 a.m. and 2:15 a.m. Pacific time, respectively. Many of the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, like Baker Island and Howland Island, are the last to ring in the new year at 4 a.m. Pacific time the next day (January 1).
3. Every New Year’s Day, South Koreans Turn a Year Older
South Koreans are considered 1 year old on the day they are born. On January 1 each year, everyone turns another year older. In effect, this means that a baby boy born on December 31 will turn age 2 on New Year’s Day, even though he’s literally just a couple of days old.
Some of the government officials in South Korea are considering changing its rather unique age reckoning system. However, at the time of publication, no legislation has been put into place to transition to a more widely accepted concept of aging anytime soon.
4. The Swiss Have Sticky Floors on New Year’s Day
To ring in the new year and ensure that It’s full of wealth, peace and good luck, folks in Switzerland drop ice cream on the floor. Both the adults and children participate in this rather odd ritual. They do also eat ice cream to celebrate the new year ― just not the scoop that was dropped on the floor.
5. Choose Your Underwear Wisely on New Year’s Eve
In many South American countries and parts of Mexico, it is believed that the color of your underwear that you are wearing at midnight on New Year’s Eve can determine some important things about your life in the coming year.
If you wear red underwear to welcome the new year, it is said that you will have good luck with romance. Wearing yellow underwear will ensure that you’ll have improved financial success in the new year. There is a catch, however. Whatever boxers, briefs, or panties that you decide to wear should be worn for the first and only time on New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day. Then, they must be thrown away.
6. A North Carolina Town Involves a Live Possum in Its New Year’s Celebration
You may have heard of a ball drop at New Year’s, but how about a possum drop? Since 1991, residents of Brasstown, North Carolina, have lowered a possum carefully into a Plexiglas cage from the top of a convenience store as they count down to the new year. For most years, they have used a live possum for the ceremony.
As you might imagine, not everyone is thrilled with the idea of the annual possum drop. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have been fighting to end this event since 2011. However, local legislation has protected the rights of the Brasstown residents to capture the marsupials and use them for the New Year’s festivities, provided the possums are released back into the wild safely after the event. To date, PETA and other animal rights groups are still trying to outlaw the practice.
A town in Georgia has its own possum drop, modeled after the Brasstown event. However, they use a stuffed dead possum instead of a live one.
7. The First Month of the Year Was Named After the Roman God Janus
Janus is a two-faced Roman god. One face is looking toward the future and the other looking to the past. Janus is the god of doorways, gates, beginnings, transitions and time. He is also who gives January its name.
8. Greeks Hang Onions on Their Doors on New Year’s Day
After families in Greece attend church services on New Year’s Day, they bring home an onion to hang on the door. It is part of the tradition to attend church first and then hang the onion. Greeks use the onion because they see it as a symbol of fertility, longevity and good health.
9. The Scottish Hogmanay Celebration Was the First to Feature ‘Auld Lang Syne’
It’s funny how, in the movies, everyone seems to know all the words to the beloved New Year’s song, “Auld Lang Syne.” In real life, however, most of us can manage to fumble through only the first line of the song.
“Auld Lang Syne” is a traditional New Year’s ballad that has come to us by way of a custom in Scottish Hogmanay. Hogmanay is a New Year’s Eve celebration that has a focus on giving symbolic gifts to others to bring good luck in the new year.
During Hogmanay, the Scots sing “Auld Lang Syne” while in a circle, holding hands at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day. In 1939, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians brought the song to the U.S. and Canada when they performed it on New Year’s Eve. The Lombardo version is still played today when the ball drops in Times Square.
10. In Japan, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Are the Most Important Holidays of the Year
On December 3 in Japan, people scrub their houses clean, throw out old things, forgive people who have hurt them and pay off their debts, if possible. The New Year’s festivities in Japan last from December 31 until January 3. All businesses are closed, and families tend to stay together.
Japanese New Year is celebrated on January 1. They call it Oshogatsu (正月). The focus of the New Year’s Day in Japan is to forget the old year and say goodbye to all of the struggles and sorrows you faced. People are encouraged to get ready for a new start.
Children normally receive little gifts with money inside from adults on Oshogatsu. People also traditionally send postcards to their friends and family during the holiday. In fact, the cards are timed to arrive on Oshogatsu. The Japanese postal service hires extra employees to deliver the specially marked postcards to people exactly on the holiday.
Happy New Year!
Across our beautiful, varied world, in each unique community, the turn of the new year is welcomed and celebrated in all sorts of ways. Whether you watch the ball drop in Time Square, throw ice cream on the floor in Switzerland or turn one year older in South Korea, you’ll likely do it with a big smile on your face as the new year arrives.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these 10 fascinating facts about New Year’s celebrations. The staff here at Exercises for Injuries wishes you and yours a happy, safe and healthy New Year. Cheers!
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