Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy New Year!
Various Customs Around New Year

The New Year is celebrated worldwide with great fun and fervor, it's a perfect time to think of the year ahead and forget the past and at the same time remember to enjoy the celebrations with family and friends. New year is a time for new hopes, festivities and indulgences. The exact date of New Year was not known until the Romans gave the date for the New Year celebrations to be January 1st. It depends on the time zone of the country for the exact time of the New Years Eve.

The regional traditions and customs like taking part in the New Year parade, dancing, singing, enjoying fire works and indulging in parties are all a part of the New Year celebrations worldwide. Gifts are exchanged and people wear gorgeous clothes to make the New Year celebration worldwide more complete. New year is the time to visit families and friends and enjoy eating delicious mouthwatering recipes. Making New Years resolutions on New Year is a custom that is observed worldwide. This custom dates back to the early Babylonians.

Various New Year Customs
Medieval Feast of Fools
In Medieval Britain, January 1. was the Feast of Fools, also celebrated in Paris from about 1198-1438, a day of licensed jesting – a kind of religious April Fool's Day. It was a crazy day on which low clerical officials could swap places with the higher ones, a mock pope was elected and churchmen parodied religious rituals - for just one day. It harkens back to the feast of Saturnalia in ancient Rome, for several days from December 17. when a Lord of Misrule was appointed to rule temporarily for Saturn. It was also known in Latin by various names, including festum fatuorum, festum stultorum and festum hypodiaconorum and was like various other celebrations, such as the Feast of Asses, and the Feast of the Boy Bishop.

Although the festivities often became anti-ecclesiastical, anti-clerical and even blasphemous, for centuries, the Church allowed the people to revel on this day. In 1440, theologians in Paris argued, in defence of the Feast of Fools, that even a wine vat would burst if the bung-hole were not opened occasionally to let out the air. However, there were often objections raised: In Paris in 1199, Bishop Eudes de Sully imposed regulations to ensure that the abuses committed in the celebration of the January 1 Feast of Fools at Notre-Dame didn’t happen again, and perhaps they didn’t for a time. The Bishop of Lincoln, England, was another who condemned the feast mercilessly. The celebration of the Feast of Fools was eventually outlawed in 1555.

When Scots and northern English people welcome a first-footer (the first person into their home after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day), they hope it is a fair-haired man for luck. He must enter by the front door and leave by the back, symbolising the old and new years.
The people of Yorkshire and northern England have among their many old customs the tradition of guising on New Year’s Eve. Guising is a centuries-old practice of going from door to door singing songs - trick or treating at Halloween derives from guising. The Welsh open the back door before midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the Old Year out, then they lock it. At the last stroke of midnight on the clock they open the front door to welcome the New Year.
Ancient Britain gives us many well and sacred spring customs. The first water drawn from a well on January 1 is supposed to bring fortune and happiness, and is called the Cream of the Well. It is customary to leave petals floating on the water. The wells at Wark, in Northumberland, UK, are supposed to have magical powers on New Year’s Day. In Wales, drawing fresh spring water as a New Year’s Day custom might have survived at the town of Tenby as late as the 1950s.

Polish tradition is for vagabond players to put on street pantomimes on New Year’s Day. Gypsies, too, are on the streets, fortune telling. A century ago the Sicilians on New Year’s Day ate lascagne cacate, or “crappy noodles”, a kind of lasagne. To eat any other sort of pasta today was considered bad luck. Their saying went “Whoever eats macaroni today will have a bad year”. People of Madrid, Spain, have an interesting old New Year’s custom: at the stroke of midnight each person eats twelve grapes. The cinemas will even stop running a movie at midnight to allow the patrons to eat their grapes.

As in many parts of the world, in Japan the New Year is brought in with noise. Here, temple bells sound, ringing out the old year. Then the joyano-kane, or nightwatch bell, rings in the new with precisely 108 chimes. This, according to Buddhist tradition, helps free mankind from the 108 “earthly desires”. A good idea has swift feet - the chiming of bells rings in the New Year in Japan and England as well as in Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Romania. As in many parts of the world, in Thailand the New Year is brought in with the tolling of bells – temple bells. People say "Kwam Suk Pee Mai!", meaning Happy New Year! Today Thai children will exchange presents with family and friends, and the general populace will present Buddhist monks a thanks offering of rice and other food.

The Russians don’t have Santa Claus, even though Saint Nicholas is patron of Moscow. They have Grandfather Frost (D’yed Moroz) at New Year, with his comely and daintily named assistant, Snegourka the Snow Maiden. They bring presents to children on this day. The people of the former Yugoslavia have their Deda Mraz. Like Santa, he brings presents to the children. He arrives a week before Christmas and asks what gifts they would like, delivering them on January 1. The Russian have New Year trees instead of Christmas trees, with more than 50,000 decorated trees erected in Moscow public places and 700,000 in private homes of Moscovites.

photo: gb

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