The following youtube video, “Happy New Year – Auld Lang Syne by Sissel (Live).wmv.flv”, features phenomenal videography of panoramic vistas, endearing nature scenes, and of course the remarkable voice of Sissel Kyrkjebø, the Norwegian soprano.
WIDELY OBSERVED NEW YEAR SYMBOLS AND TRADITIONS
Resolutions: It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s resolutions, and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since. The early Christians believed the first day of the new year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself in the new year.
Fireworks: Noise-making and fireworks on New Year’s eve is believed to have originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck. The Chinese are credited with inventing fireworks and use them to spectacular effect in their New Year’s celebrations.
The birthplace of “Auld Lang Syne” is also the home of Hogmanay (hog-mah-NAY), the rousing Scottish New Year’s celebration (the origins of the name are obscure). The Torchlight Procession is the official start of three-days of spectacular Edinburgh’s Hogmanay events.
Last year’s event welcomed over 35,000 participants and spectators, joining the Up Helly Aa’ Vikings, massed pipes & drums and thousands of torch carriers as they illuminate the city from our start position on George IV Bridge to the finale viewing areas at Waterloo Place and Calton Hill. The Torchlight Procession fireworks finale can be viewed across the city and beyond! One of the traditions is “first-footing.”
Shortly after midnight on New Year’s eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. Traditionally, First foots used to bring along a gift of coal for the fire, or shortbread. It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebration is the largest in the country, and consists of an all-night street party.
A different type of celebration for New Year’s Day is happening in Argos Orestiko, a town in Northern Greece. From New Year’s Eve to January 2, the locals wear their carnival costumes and celebrate in an unusual way. Unlike the rest of the cities in Greece, Argos Orestiko celebrates with a carnival during Christmas and especially around New Year’s Day. In fact, this was a custom of western Macedonia in Greece, which had its roots there at the time while the country was enslaved by the Ottomans. In order for people of the area to celebrate freely, they were in disguise — the men dressed as women and vice versa. This celebration kept on for centuries, even after the liberation of the region in 1912, and now it offers unique moments of festivities under the sound of music and, most of the time, with very cold weather.
In Belarus, unmarried women compete at games of skill to determine who will get married first in the New Year. One game involves setting piles of corn and a rooster before each of the single ladies. Whichever pile the bird approaches first, is believed to be the one who is to be married first.
In Japan, on New Year’s Eve people prepare for and welcome Toshigami , the New Year’s god. People clean their home and prepare Kadomatsu or Shimenawa to welcome the god before New Year’s Eve. Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times at midnight in the tradition Joya no Kane. The rings represent the 108 elements of bonō, mental states that lead people to take unwholesome actions. In most cities and urban areas across Japan, New Year’s Eve celebrations are usually accompanied by concerts, countdowns, fireworks, and other events to mark the beginning of the New Year.
People gather around the Zojoji Temple to release helium balloons up in the sky containing New Year’s wishes and watch the lighting of Tokyo Tower with a year number displayed on the observatory at the stroke of midnight.
The Dutch burn bonfires of Christmas trees on the street and launch fireworks. The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new.
At midnight, Spaniards eat twelve grapes, each one bringing luck for one month of the year. The actual countdown is primarily followed from the clock on top of the Casa de Correos building in Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. It is traditional to eat twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock. This tradition has its origins in 1909, when grape growers in Alicante thought of it as a way to cut down on the large production surplus they had had that year.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
On New Years Eve, at 11:59 pm, millions of Americans tune in to watch the dropping of the giant ball in Times Square in New York City. The ball, which is made of Waterford Crystal, weighs 1,070 pounds, and is six feet in diameter, reaches the bottom exactly at midnight. What most people don’t know is that this ritual is carried out five times, as local news stations replay the event at midnight in each time zone.