Since I write historical fiction, I thought I’d share a little history about New Year’s Eve. I’m writing this because I happened to be cleaning my dining room on New Year’s Eve Day—not for any big party, but just because it was dusty and needed to be cleaned. On the wall is a framed collage of old postcards, calling cards and decorative figures that had been in a very old scrapbook belonging to a relative. One of the postcards is a New Year’s greeting and the postmark on the back is from 1897. Back in those days, people sent written greetings, but times have changed and now we send an email or take to Facebook to wish friends Happy New Year.
We still sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve. The words roughly translate to ‘days gone by.’ The poet Robert Burns is credited with adapting and partially rewriting it in the late 18th century. The song became a holiday classic when Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians played it during a radio broadcast in 1929, although it had been sung for many years before that date.
And supposedly folks have been making New Year’s resolutions for about 4,000 years. I wonder if they were at all like me. Back when I made a resolution, I couldn’t even remember what it was by the following New Year’s Eve. Hope none of you fall into the same category as me.
That huge ball in Times Square was first dropped back in 1904 when the New York Times newspaper relocated to what was then known as Longacre Square and convinced the city to rename the neighborhood in its honor. At the end of the year, the owner of the Times threw a huge party with elaborate fireworks. When the city banned fireworks in 1907, an electrician devised a wood and iron ball that weighed 700 pounds and was illuminated with 100 light bulbs. The ball was dropped from a flagpole at midnight and has been dropping ever since—but no longer lit with light bulbs and no longer dropped from a flagpole.
There are also traditional foods for New Year’s celebrations. In Spain people quickly down twelve grapes to symbolize their hopes for the months ahead. In other places legumes are eaten because they are thought to resemble coins and bring financial success. Pork is eaten because pigs are said to root forward and represent progress. In other places ring-shaped cakes and pastries are devoured signifying that the year has come full circle.
Though we may send our greetings by email or cook our traditional foods on an electric stove rather than over an open fire, many New Year’s traditions remain the same. At midnight we say farewell to the old year and welcome the new.
So even though we’re several weeks into the New Year, I want to wish you the peace and joy of our Lord. May you be filled with His abundant love throughout the remainder of the year.