Thanks to the History Channel, I now know something about the new year. For example, the song that many sing just past midnight on January 1, “Auld Lang Syne”, is thought to derive from an old Scottish folk song about days gone by. It’s said to be the work of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Like most things, this info triggers a travel memory. Pictured above is the old bridge at Dumfries. This bridge has been in this Scottish town since 1432. Robert Burns lived here for 10 years, died in Dumfries, and some say he drank a lot while there.
Babylonians are thought to be the first people to make new year’s resolutions. They are also rumored to be the first people to quickly abandoned them. Each year about a billion people around the world watch on TV as the ball drops at One Times Square in New York City. This may be true at the end of 2020 too, but the number of people actually watching it descend in the square this year will be zero if the authorities can keep them from gathering.
There are 11 cultures in the world that do not celebrate the end of each year on December 31. Most of them are Asian but not all. For example, The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, arrives on September 6 in 2021; and The Islamic New Year, Muharram, begins at sundown perhaps on August 9, depending on the crescent moon.
A lot of people celebrate each new year with fireworks, but that practice is fading in my neighborhood. Famous early Americans Betsy Ross and Paul Revere were both born on January 1. Four-term President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also born in January but not on the first day of the month.
Pork and pastries are popular New Year’s Eve party foods in several cultures and are thought to bring good luck. In Norway, however, rice pudding with a hidden almond is often served to guests for the new year, but the dawn of 2021 may see far fewer parties. In my childhood home my parents and their New Year’s Eve guests often ate herring to bring luck in the new year. I have no idea how this practice began or how widespread this custom is.
By the way, 2021 is the Chinese year of the ox, and millions of Chinese people will travel home, if they can, to welcome this year with their family on February 12.