2024 is almost here and it’s a time for celebration! Common traditions include attending parties, eating special foods, making resolutions, and watching fireworks. It’s a day to reminisce about the year and make plans for good habits in the new year. But how much do you know about the holiday or about the different ways in which people celebrate? Here are 24 fun facts about New Year’s Eve/Day.
History of New Year’s
1. When was the first New Year’s celebration?
The first New Year’s celebration was started by the Mesopotamians 4,000 years ago, in 2000 BC. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar, the emperor of Rome, was the first to declare January 1 a national holiday. He named the month after Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. Janus had two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. Caesar felt that a month named after this god would be fitting to ring in the new year while saying goodbye to the old one.
2. Who’s the first to celebrate the New Year?
People living in Oceania, such as the Pacific Island nations of Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati, are the first countries to celebrate the new year. Tonga is about 6,753 miles from Mississippi, Samoa is about 6,305 miles from Mississippi, and Kiribati is about 5,720 miles from Mississippi. Tonga and Samoa are 19 hours ahead of Mississippi and Kiribati is 18 hours ahead of Mississippi.
3. Who’s the last to celebrate the New Year?
American Samoa is the second to last place to ring in the New Year behind Baker Island and Howland Island, both of which are uninhabited. American Samoa is about 6,214 miles away from Mississippi. Baker Island is about 6,037 miles away from Mississippi and Howland Island is about 6,022 miles away from Mississippi. Both islands are 6 hours behind Mississippi, while American Samoa is 5 hours behind Mississippi.
Fun fact: the islands of Samoa and American Samoa are only 100 miles apart, but because they are on opposite sides of the International Date Line, they are separated by 24 hours.
Popular traditions associated with the New Year
4. The midnight kiss
The ancient Romans are credited with the kissing tradition because of their Saturnalia festival, which was a celebration honoring Saturn, the god of time, where all social norms went out the window. It’s also likely rooted in German and English folklore. The belief was that the first person you encountered at the start of the new year determined your fortunes in the year ahead. Over time, people became proactive and made sure to kiss someone they knew and liked at the start of the year. So, while this is a fun idea, there’s no concrete explanation for the origin of this tradition.
5. Traditional song of New Year’s
The song “Auld Lang Syne,” is traditionally sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Poet Robert Burns is credited for writing the song in 1788, but he actually took a Scottish folk song called “Old Long Syne” and put his own spin on it, and that is the version we know today. Auld lang syne means “times long past.”
6. Bring on the bubbly!
Many people ring in the new year by popping open a bottle of champagne. Americans drink close to 360 million glasses of sparkling wine during this time.
7. Traditional meals
Around the world, people eat a variety of foods for good fortune in the new year, but here in the South, we are firm believers in the “traditional” New Year’s Day meal of ham, greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread. It’s believed that eating these foods on New Year’s Day will bring good luck and prosperity for the remainder of the year.
What does each food represent?
Pork is meant to bring “forward motion” or “advancement” in the year ahead because when looking for food, pigs “root forward” with their snouts.
Greens (cabbage, collards, mustard or turnip greens, etc.) symbolize the green of “dollar bills,” and will ensure you have a financially prosperous year.
Black-eyed peas symbolize “coins,” and point to monetary gain.
Cornbread, because of its yellow hue, represents “gold.”
Also, round or ring-shaped foods are considered lucky to eat with your New Year’s meal, symbolizing the year has come full circle.
8. Foods to avoid!
Catfish (and other bottom-feeding fish): it’s believed if you eat this group of fish on New Year’s Day, you will experience struggles to make ends meet throughout the rest of the year.
Crabs, crawfish, lobster, shrimp: it’s believed to be unlucky to eat these shellfish because they move sideways and not forward.
Poultry: because they scratch backward for food, it’s believed if you eat this type of food, you’ll be “scratching in the dirt” for food in the upcoming year. Also, it’s advised to not eat anything with wings as your good luck for the coming year will “fly away.”
It’s said that 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The top ones are to get organized, to spend less and save more, to get fit and stay healthy, and to quit smoking. While nearly half of all Americans make resolutions, 25 percent of them give up on them by the second week of January.
10. Most common symbols associated with New Year
Father Time, who is depicted as an old, bearded man dressed in a robe with a sash across his chest with the previous year printed on it. He carries a scythe and, usually, an hourglass, and symbolizes the year coming to an end.
Baby New Year, who is often seen in a diaper, black top hat, and a sash showing the numbers of the incoming new year.
There may be many parades on New Year’s Day, but the two most famous parades take place on opposite sides of the country.
The Rose Parade, also known as the Tournament of Roses Parade, is held annually on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, CA. The highlights of this parade are the lavishly decorated floats in which every inch of every float is covered with flowers or other natural materials, such as leaves, seeds, or bark. The parade is followed by the Rose Bowl college football game.
The Mummers Parade is held each New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, PA. Local clubs compete in one of five categories (Comics, Wench Brigades, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades). They prepare elaborate costumes, performance routines, and movable scenery.
12. Are you ready for some football?
The New Year’s Six, sometimes abbreviated as NY6, is an unofficial, but commonly used term used to describe the NCAA’s six biggest bowl games: the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl, and the Fiesta Bowl. These games are played annually on or around New Year’s Day.
Dec. 29: Cotton Bowl (Arlington, TX): Missouri v Ohio State
Dec. 30: Peach Bowl (Atlanta, GA): Ole Miss v Penn State
Dec. 30: Orange Bowl (Miami, FL): Georgia v Florida State
Jan. 1: Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ): Liberty v Oregon
Jan. 1: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA): Alabama v Michigan
Jan. 1: Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA): Texas v Washington
Jan. 8: National Championship (Houston, TX): winners of the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl
13. Celebratory “drops”
Many cities across the country ring in the new year by dropping a specific item at the stroke of midnight. The most famous “drop” of them all is the ball dropped in Times Square in New York City. Since 1907, the ball has dropped every year, except for during World War II when wartime restrictions put the tradition on pause in 1942 and 1943. Revelers in Times Square observed a moment of silence at midnight instead. This year’s ball is 12 feet in diameter and weighs 11,875 pounds. It’s covered with over 2,600 crystal panels and has a bowtie pattern.
Also in Times Square, is the confetti, or, rather, “wishfetti,” drop. People write their wishes for the new year on slips of paper and those wishes are turned into confetti that is dropped at midnight.
14. Mississippi Midnight “Drops”:
Bay St. Louis drops a giant oyster
Hattiesburg drops the iconic Hub Sign
Jackson drops a giant catfish
Ocean Springs – this year will be the inaugural drop of an iconic ball outfitted with LED lights
Pascagoula – this year will be the inaugural drop of an anchor
15. Other states have midnight “drops” too:
Mobile, AL drops a 600-pound electronic MoonPie
Miami, FL drops a 35-foot, sunglass-clad metal orange, named Mr. Neon
Hershey, PA drops a giant 300-pound Hershey’s Kiss
Raleigh, NC drops a 10-foot-tall, 1,250-pound acorn made out of copper and steel
Las Cruces, NM drops an oversized, illuminated chili pepper
Boise, ID drops a large potato
Traverse City, MI drops a giant cherry
Nashville, TN drops a giant music note
New Orleans, LA drops a giant fleur-de-lis
16. Global celebrations
We know how we usually celebrate New Year’s here in the US, but what about people around the world? Some wear a specific color, some eat certain foods, and some partake in certain activities.
17. Lucky underwear?
In Italy, wearing red underwear is considered lucky, and it will supposedly bring good fortune in the coming year.
In Mexico, red underwear is worn for good luck in love and yellow underwear is worn for good luck in money during the new year.
18. Traditions involving food
In Spain, eating grapes at midnight is both a tradition and a superstition. At the stroke of midnight, Spaniards eat 12 grapes symbolizing 12 lucky months ahead. In some areas, the grapes are also believed to ward away witches and general evil.
In Mexico, Mexicans also eat a grape with each of the twelve chimes of a clock’s bell during the midnight countdown, while making a wish with each one.
In Greece, people hang onions on their doors on New Year’s Eve with the belief that it will bring good luck to the children in the house. Greeks also break pomegranates at their doorsteps. This is also believed to bring good luck and happiness. At midnight, the lights are turned off and guests are served a pie, which contains a coin. Whoever gets the coin wins luck for the new year.
In the Philippines, people eat a midnight feast featuring twelve different round fruits to symbolize good luck for the coming year.
19. Traditional activities to bring good luck
In some parts of Italy, people welcome in the new year by tossing old things out of their windows. By tossing out the old, they make room for new and lucky things to enter their household and lives in the coming year.
In Romania, tossing a coin into a river on New Year’s Eve is said to bring good luck.
In Denmark, it’s a tradition to smash dishes against your friend’s front door at midnight. Finding a large pile of broken china at your door is considered lucky because it means you have lots of loyal friends.
In Belgium, people go beyond giving New Year’s greetings to family and friends: they greet pets and livestock as well. They believe that talking to the animals brings health and good luck in the coming year.
In Mexico, some families drop twelve coins outside of their door and sweep them inside to invite prosperity.
20. Unusual traditions
In Chile, some people celebrate New Year’s at the cemetery in an effort to include all family members, even those who are deceased, in the celebration.
In some cities of Columbia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, there is a tradition of making a male doll that is stuffed with memories from the past year, all dressed in the clothes of the outgoing year, and is called Mr. Old Year. At midnight, the doll is set on fire symbolizing erasing bad memories.
In colder countries close to water, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and parts of the US, people take part in cold-water plunges, sometimes called a Polar Bear Plunge. These events often raise money for charity or awareness for a cause.
21. Random Statistics:
According to WalletHub, these are some of the numbers associated with New Year’s Eve/Day:
- 64% of Americans spend at least $50 on New Year’s Eve food & drink
- 24% of Americans plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home
- 51% of Americans plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve with family and friends
- 32% of Americans plan to eat out or order food for pickup/delivery
- 22% of Americans don’t plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve
- 48% of parents plan to count down the last 10 seconds of the year by 9 p.m. for young children
- 25% of Americans fall asleep before midnight on New Year’s Eve
- 68% of Americans say New Year’s Eve is their favorite holiday
- 125m+ people will travel for the New Year’s holiday this year
- 360M+ glasses of sparkling wine and champagne are consumed on New Year’s Eve
- New Year’s Eve is the busiest night of the year for illegal “celebratory” gunfire
- New Year’s Day is the top day for car theft, with New Year’s Eve following as the fourth
- 9,600 is the average number of births on New Year’s Day in the US
- 2nd Friday in January is the most likely day for people to give up on their resolutions (known as “quitters day”)
- Top resolutions: improve physical health 20%, save more money 20%, exercise more 19%, eat healthier 18%, personal happiness 17%
22. Superstitions associated with New Year’s
Some people believe an old superstition that says one should never wear clothing with empty pockets on New Year’s Eve since it can be a sign of low or no income in the year to come.
Superstition dictates that at midnight on New Year’s Eve, all doors to the house must be opened to assist the old year in finding its way out. Until the old year leaves, the new year will be unable to come in.
Superstition says that if you don’t have food in your cupboards before midnight, you’ll struggle to have food throughout the year.
There’s an old superstition that your first visitor in the new year will influence the entire year ahead. If this first visitor is a tall, dark-haired man, he’ll bring you good luck. But it should never be a blonde or red-haired man and absolutely should never be a woman. The first person into your home needs to knock and be admitted. They need to walk through the house and leave by a different door, and they also cannot have flat feet, cross-eyes or eyebrows that meet in the middle of their forehead.
It’s believed that lugging around an empty suitcase will conjure up a year full of adventure and travel.
23. Do these things at New Year’s
Make noise. New Year’s Eve is often celebrated with fireworks and noisemakers. In ancient times, fire and noise were said to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck, so at the stroke of midnight, you need to make as much noise as you can so that the ghosts of the past year are startled and leave your home.
Pay your bills on New Year’s Eve. Write any checks and take care of settling any debts you can before welcoming in the new year.
Make sure that you put cash in your wallet on New Year’s Eve. It’s believed that doing so will usher in a year of prosperity.
24. Don’t do these things at New Year’s
Do not loan anything or spend any money on New Year’s Day or it will guarantee you’ll be doling out money all year long.
Don’t do any sweeping on New Year’s Day because it’s believed you’ll be sweeping away good luck.
Don’t wash clothes or dishes on New Year’s Day as it’s believed you’ll be “washing for the dead” or washing a loved one way, meaning someone in your household will die in the coming year.
Don’t take anything out of your home on New Year’s Day. Literally, nothing. No garbage, no packages. Nothing. If you take anything out it’s believed your luck will go out with it and not come back in.
Bonus Fun Fact About New Year’s Eve 2023:
The date for New Year’s Eve 2023 will be 123123
Now that you know a little about New Year’s and the traditions behind the holiday, maybe it will add a little something to your celebration. And no matter how you celebrate the New Year, may you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2024!