New Year’s Eve is a big deal for people around the World. It’s a much bigger deal than the actual New Year’s Day holiday. Aside from each nations’ national day, vast sums of money are spent on fireworks displays and people attend more parties. I barely need to mention that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is unmatched by any other holiday.
Unlike holidays like the Fourth of July or Canada Day, New Year’s Eve is devoted to night time social affairs. The most noticeable aspect of New Year’s Eve is that it is a global party. We enjoy the hourly announcements of the arrival of the New Year as it occurs time zone by time zone.
The histories of New Year’s Eve revelry are anecdotal with stories colored by regional culture and tradition. In the early days of the US, New Year’s Eve was an unruly event. Roving gangs of adolescent and “adult” males made loud noises, committed acts of vandalism, and sometimes other crimes. In order to dampen the outbursts of criminal behavior, several American cities initiated “First Night” celebrations. Organized cultural and social events were planned and took place in outdoor settings that included food and non-alcoholic drinks.
Many historians believe that New Year’s Eve celebrations in the West go back to the ancient Roman celebration of the December Solstice, Saturnalia. The string of days during Saturnalia eventually evolved into our modern day holiday season from around Christmas into New Year’s Day.
Of course, New Year’s Eve has been a part of much older societies than ancient Rome. Peoples of various prehistoric cultures often welcomed their particular new years by creating noisy ceremonies and observances. Many believed that noises frightened away devils and evil spirits. This practice is thought to be the reason behind the popularity of horns and noisemakers at our New Year’s Eve parties. However, I think we humans sometimes need to let go of our normal restraints and express ourselves with primal noises.
Aside from ad hoc, illegal neighborhood fireworks, we have the more civilized practice of singing “Auld Lang Syne”. Back in the 1700s, inhabitants of the British Isles capped their parties by standing in a circle, singing that song. The lyrics were composed by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who adapted it to a traditional Scottish folk melody. Who has not heard the old recording from Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians of this tune? These days, updated versions are often played at midnight by bands and entertainers at modern New Year’s Eve celebrations.
When the celebrants return home, the next day, the actual holiday seems more like an afterthought. It’s the time to recover from partying and to nurse hangovers. New Year’s Day is a low-key day that many people enjoy as a day off from work.
I hope you enjoy a great New Year’s Eve. Be sure to remember to have a designated driver, a taxi, or use public transit if you plan to partake in drink or other mind altering substances.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”