New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are a time to both reflect on the past year and to look forward to the excitement the months ahead will bring. There may be confetti, there are probably noisemakers and some bubbly is likely overflowing from champagne flutes.
New Year’s celebrations can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Babylon. And as with many holidays with deep histories, traditions are the hallmark of many New Year’s celebrations. While many people perform these traditions by rote, it can be interesting to delve into the history behind various components of New Year’s celebrations.
ChampagneToasting the New Year with a sparkling wine can be traced back to French champagne producers. Champagne, a sparkling wine from a specific region of France, was used in the baptism of the Frankish warrior Clovis, according to the Champagne Committee of France.
Soon, champagne became a key part of religious events, coronations and soirees — as well as secular rituals that replaced formerly religious rituals, according to the book “When Champagne Became French” by Kolleen Guy. Champagne manufacturers eventually linked the bubbly to festive occasions with family, and New Year’s celebrations became another ideal time to pop the cork on a bottle.
Ball dropWhile not everyone can venture to New York City’s famed Times Square to watch the ball drop in person, millions tune in around the world to watch it on television.
Original celebrations in New York centered around listening to the bells of Trinity Church ring at midnight, but the New Year’s Eve celebrations were later moved to the New York Times building in 1904. Fireworks were part of those celebrations, but hot ash and sparks falling on spectators led to a ban on fireworks, and event organizers needed another spectacle to draw crowds, according to PBS.
Publisher Adolph Ochs asked his chief electrician Walter Palmer to create something visually appealing. Inspired by the maritime tradition of dropping a time ball at harbor so that sailors could set their own timepieces while at sea, Palmer devised the idea of dropping an illuminated ball on New Year’s Eve. This has been tradition since 1907.
ResolutionsNew Year’s resolutions can be traced to the Mesopotamians. Ancient Babylonians also made spoken resolutions during a 12-day-long New Year Festival. These resolutions were oaths made to the sitting or new king and were considered essential to keeping the kingdom in the gods’ favor.
The Romans also had a similar tradition of swearing oath to royalty at the start of the year. Many of these traditions merged into modern resolution-making, according to Live Science.
These are but a few New Year’s traditions. The history behind these traditions is storied, just like the holiday itself.