Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Trivia

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The custom of first footing is observed in Scotland and Northern England. It holds that the first visitors one sees or the one who first steps into the house after the clock strikes midnight is considered to bring either good luck or bad fortune. Although it is acceptable in many places for the first-footer to be a resident of the house, they must not be in the house at the stroke of midnight in order to first-foot (thus going out of the house after midnight and then coming back in to the same house is not considered to be first-footing). It is said to be desirable for the first-foot to be a tall, dark-haired male; a female or fair-haired male are in some places regarded as unlucky. The first-foot usually brings several gifts, including perhaps a coin (silver is considered good luck), bread, salt, coal, or a drink (usually whisky), which represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, and good cheer respectively.

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From donuts to more traditional cakes, round or ring-shaped sweets are popular on New Year’s Day. Many people believe round foods symbolize a full circle and bring good luck that the coming year will go well and come “full circle” around to this same point in time the following year. 

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Tmes Square as it was in 1908, the newly finished New York Times buidlking being the tall thin building in the centre.

The first New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square was held on December 31, 1903; The New York Times’ owner, Adolph Ochs, decided to celebrate the opening of the newspaper's new headquarters, One Times Square, with a New Year's fireworks show on the roof of the building to welcome 1904. Close to 200,000 people attended the event, displacing traditional celebrations that had normally been held at Trinity Church. However, following several years of fireworks shows, Ochs wanted a bigger spectacle at the building to draw more attention to the area. The newspaper's chief electrician, Walter F. Painer, suggested using a time ball, after seeing one used on the nearby Western Union Building. Ochs hired sign designer Artkraft Strauss to construct an electrically lit ball for the celebration; it was built from iron and wood, lit with one hundred incandescent light bulbs, weighed 700 pounds (320 kg), and measured 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter. The ball was hoisted on the building's flagpole with rope by a team of six men. Once it hit the roof of the building, the ball was designed to complete an electric circuit to light a 5-foot tall sign indicating the new year, and trigger a fireworks show. The first ever "ball drop" was held on December 31, 1907, welcoming the year 1908. In 1913, only eight years after it moved to One Times Square, the Times moved its corporate headquarters to 229 West 43rd Street. The Times still maintained ownership of the tower, however, and Strauss continued to organize future editions of the drop.

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The first month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, January, has been named after God Janus, who holds two faces. One face of the God looks backwards while the other one look towards the future and represents the ‘spirit of the opening’.

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In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico, some families stuff a large doll, which is called Mr. Old Year, with memories from the past year. They also dress him in clothes from the outgoing year. At midnight, he is set ablaze, thus burning away the bad memories.

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People in Mexico, Bolivia and Italy also follow a New Year tradition of wearing red underwear on the eve of the New Year. It is said to bring good luck for the entire year, while yellow underwear is also worn on the New Year’s Day as it symbolizes money. 

(That's Sean Copnnery above, btw, from the fiilm Zardoz, a dated but quite god sci fi flick).

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The common belief behind lighting up fireworks in some countries on New Year’s Day is that it not only illuminates the sky but also dispels bad spirits and unpleasant memories of the past. 

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For new year it is good luck to eat foods such as black eyed peas, ham and cabbage because it is thought they bring prosperity. Avoid lobster and chicken. Lobsters can move backward and chickens can scratch in reverse, so it is thought these foods could bring a reversal of fortune.

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Chinese New Year is celebrated the second full moon after the winter solstice.

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Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. Apples and honey are traditionally eaten.

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In ancient Rome the new year began on March 1.

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The traditional New Year’s song, “Auld Lang Syne,” means, “times gone by.”

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Using a baby to signify the New Year began in ancient Greece around 600 B.C.


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