Friday, December 29, 2006

December 29


      Facts About New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve is celebrated on December 31st every year by those who use the Gregorian calendar.  The main regions of the world welcoming in the New Year on this day are the United States, Australia, the British Isles, North and South America, Europe, Scandanavia, and the countries comprising what was the former Soviet Union.
At the stroke of midnight a new year is rung in.  Celebrations may be parties or times of prayer, depending on what part of the world you live in.  In the United States, people dress up in silly hats.  The seconds are counted down till midnight, and as the new year comes in, everybody turns and kisses the one they love.  Then the noise begins!  Noisemakers are used to express the excitement and hope in the year ahead.  Some people bang pots and pans at midnight.  Others set off firecrackers.  The point is to make as much noise as you can to celebrate. 
At parties Auld Lang Syne is sung.  The custom of singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight goes back to the British Isles from the 18th century when guests ended a party standing in a circle and singing this song.  The custom first was rooted in Scotland, because the lyrics were written in 1788 by Robert Burns, their favorite folk poet of the time. 
What does this song mean?  In the Scottish language, "auld lang syne" means "old long since", or as we would say - "the good old days".  The song starts with the words "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind...".  The entire song's message merely means to forget about the past and to look ahead to the new year with hope.  But many of us sing it without really knowing what we are saying, but just to be part of the group.   
Another tradition is for Americans to gather in New York City's Times Square to watch the "ball drop".  Some go to Atlanta, Georgia, USA to watch a giant Peach being dropped.  This started as a competition to New York's (Big) Apple that was being dropped at Times Square.  Of course Times Square no longer has an Apple that is dropped, but instead a ball that is cut by hand and by laser.  It is made of crystal. 
In London crowds gather in Trafalgar Square to count down the closing of the old year and welcome in the new.
Sometimes New Year's Eve celebrations get too rowdy, due to excessive drinking.  That is how a popular trend called "First Night" got started.  In the United States, many cities now hold First Night celebrations.  They are outdoor community-oriented gatherings that are geared towards the whole family.  First Night events include cultural events, performances by singers and musicians, non-alcoholic beverages, and food.  Often ice sculptures are viewed throughout the town that have been carved several days beforehand.  Also a walk or run usually takes place throughout the town.  The length can be as short as a mile or as long as a 5K Walk/Run.  By the way, the first First Night was in Boston in 1976.   Find out if there are First Night activities in your town or city, they are cultural and lots of fun.
Many who prefer to have a very quiet New Year's Eve stay at home.  They watch fireworks and the "ball drop" on TV.  They watch what is going on in their own country, as well as celebrations going on in other countries.
However you bring in the new year this year, please be safe, and have fun!
Gospel reading:  Luke 2:22-35