by Gerald Boerner
In this installment, we will examine how New Year’s Eve is practiced in some of the Western European countries. Many traditions have grown up around a combination of religious and native customs. Many of these celebrations include fireworks displays. In coming days, we will continue to explore various aspects of these celebrations. GLB
“New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.”
— Charles Lamb
“Never tell your resolution beforehand, or it’s twice as onerous a duty.”
— John Selden
“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.”
— Bill Vaughn
“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”
— Bill Vaughan
“Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits.”
— Author Unknown
“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”
— Author Unknown
“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”
— Benjamin Franklin
“No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.”
— Charles Lamb
New Year’s Eve Celebrations
New Year’s Eve is a separate observance from the observance of New Year’s Day. In modern Western practice, New Year’s Eve is celebrated with parties and social gatherings spanning the transition of the year at midnight.
Many cultures use fireworks and other forms of noise making in part of the celebration. Religious communities often incorporate their doctrinal beliefs into the celebrations as indicated by the following observation of Mikkelson, Barbara in "Watch Night” (December 14, 2006):
Many religious communities have a tradition of New Year’s Eve being known as "Watch Night". The faithful of the community congregate in worship services commencing New Year’s Eve night and continuing past midnight into the new year. The Watch Night is a time for giving thanks for the blessings of the outgoing year and praying for divine favor during the upcoming year. Though held by some to have begun in the African American community, watch night can actually be traced back to a sect of Christians known as the Moravians who held the first Watchnight Service in Herrnhut, Saxony, in 1732. The practice was later adopted by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Watch Night did take on special significance to African Americans on New Year’s Eve 1862, however, as slaves eagerly awaited the arrival of January 1, 1863—the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation. This particular New Year’s Eve became known as "Freedom’s Eve."
Selected Localized Celebrations
United States… In the United States, New Year’s Eve is a major social holiday. One of the top destination cities for New Year’s Eve from 2003 to 2006 has been New York. Las Vegas’s America’s Party is also attracting a large number of New Year’s Eve party goers with the famous Las Vegas Strip being closed to vehicles and fireworks launched from numerous rooftops.
In the past 100 years the "ball dropping" on top of One Times Square in New York City, broadcast to all of America (and rebroadcast in many other countries), is a major component of the New Year celebration. The 11,875-pound (5,386 kg), 12-foot (3.7 m) diameter Waterford crystal ball located high above Times Square is lowered, starting at 11:59:00pm and reaching the bottom of its tower 60 seconds later, at the stroke of midnight (12:00:00am). This is repeated in many towns and cities across the United States. From 1981 to 1988, New York City dropped an enlarged apple in recognition of its nickname. It is sometimes referred to as "the big apple" like the city itself; the custom derives from the time signal that used to be given at noon in harbors.
From 1972 through 2007 (except in 1999), Dick Clark hosted televised coverage of the event called Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, shown on ABC, and now renamed Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest for the arrival of 2009. The show did not air for the arrival of 2000 as it was preempted by ABC 2000 Today. From 1956 to 1976 on CBS, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians serenaded the United States from the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City. The Royal Canadians continued on CBS until 1978, and Happy New Year, America replaced it in 1979, continuing until 1995. The song Auld Lang Syne has become a popular song to sing at midnight on New Year’s Eve, with the Lombardo version being the standard. NBC also has hosted New Year’s coverage; traditionally, the networks’ late night hosts have hosted special editions of their regular shows (including a special Central Time Zone-specific countdown on Late Night with Conan O’Brien), but since 2005, the network has opted for a special entitled New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly. Fox, CNN, and Fox News Channel also have their own New Year’s specials.
Canada… In Canada, New Year’s traditions and celebrations vary from region to region. Generally, New Year’s Eve (also known as New Year’s Eve Day) in Canada is a social holiday. In major metropolitan areas such as Toronto and Montreal, major celebrations with music and fireworks are often held at Midnight. Other common New Year’s Eve celebrations such as late-night partying are also major events in these cities and other places around Canada. In some areas, such as in rural Quebec, people ice fish and drink with their friends until the early hours of January 1.
On television, the sketch comedy troupe Royal Canadian Air Farce had been known for their New Year’s Eve specials on CBC, which in addition before the start of their weekly television series, was one of their first forays into television after years on radio. Consequentially, the series finale of their television series was a New Year’s Eve special on December 31, 2008, although due to their popularity, the CBC requested that they return for a New Year’s Eve special for 2009.
France… The French call New Year’s Eve "la Saint-Sylvestre". It is usually celebrated with a feast called le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre. This feast customarily includes special dishes like foie gras and drinks like champagne. The celebration can be a simple, intimate dinner with friends and family or a much fancier ball (une soirée dansante).
On le Jour de l’An (New Year’s Day), friends and family exchange New Year’s resolutions and sometimes gifts. Some people eat heart or log shaped desserts, sometimes made of ice cream
The holiday period ends on January 6 for the Epiphany. On this day, they traditionally enjoy a type of cake that varies depending on where you are in France, resembling king cake in the United States.
Germany… Germans call New Year’s Eve Silvester. Since 1972, each New Year’s Eve, several German television stations broadcast a short English theatrical performance titled Dinner for One. A punch line from the comedy sketch, "same procedure as every year", has become a catch phrase in Germany. Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in all of Europe which is attended by over a million people. The focal point is the Brandenburg Gate and the fireworks at midnight centered around that location. Germans have a reputation of spending large amounts of money on firecrackers and fireworks.
Spain… Spanish New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja or Fin de Año in Spanish, Cap d’Any in Catalan, Cabo d’Anyo in Aragonese) celebrations usually begin with a family dinner, traditionally including shrimp and lamb or turkey. Spanish tradition says that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve brings good luck. The actual countdown is primarily followed from the clock on top of the Casa de Correos building in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid. It is traditional to eat twelve grapes, one on each chime of the clock. This tradition has its origins in 1909, when grape growers in Alicante thought of it as a way to cut down on the large production surplus they had had that year.
Nowadays, the tradition is followed by almost every Spaniard, and the twelve grapes have become synonymous with the New Year. After the clock has finished striking twelve, people greet each other and toast with sparkling wine such as cava or champagne, or alternatively with cider.
After the family dinner and the grapes, many young people attend New Year parties at pubs, discothèques and similar places (these parties are called cotillones de nochevieja, after the Spanish word cotillón, which refers to party supplies like confetti, party blowers, party hats, etc.). Parties usually last until the next morning and range from small, personal celebrations at local bars to huge parties with guests numbering the thousands at hotel convention rooms. Early next morning, party attendees usually gather to have the traditional winter breakfast of chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and fried pastry).
Mexico… Mexicans down a grape with each of the twelve chimes of the bell during the New Year countdown, while making a wish with each one. On New Year’s Eve, those who want to find love in the new year wear red underwear and yellow if they want money.
Other traditions include sweeping the dirt out, taking luggage outside as a symbol of future trips, hanging sheep dolls (mainly made out of wool) in the doorknob for prosperity, among others.
The celebrations are very similar to those of Spain. They make dolls out of old clothes.
United Kingdom… London’s firework celebrations centre around the London Eye. At the start of 2005, fireworks were launched from the wheel itself for the first time. The timing of the new year is usually indicated by the chimes on Big Ben.
The celebrations have been televised from London over the last few years by the BBC in England & Wales. BBC Scotland broadcast the celebrations in Edinburgh to a Scottish audience, with the UK-wide BBC occasionally simulcasting. ITV covers the New Year celebrations worldwide, with STV additionally providing coverage in Scotland of events going on around the country.
In Edinburgh the cannon is fired at Edinburgh Castle at the stroke of midnight and is followed by a large fireworks display.
Scotland celebrates New Year as Hogmanay. Other cities in Britain such as Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester, Aberdeen, Newcastle upon Tyne and Birmingham all have celebrations during the evening.
Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:
New Year’s Eve can be found at…
Quotations courtesy of “The Quote Garden”…