Compiled by Nancy Kriz from various Web sites, including www.celebrations.com As you wait for the clock to strike midnight, see if you can answer some of these questions about the history and celebration of New Year’s Eve. Q: The New Year has not always been celebrated on Jan. 1. When did the original celebration take place? A: Starting around the year 2,000 B.C., the Babylonians observed the beginning of spring as the start of a new year. Q: Who established Jan. 1 as the start of a New Year? A: Julius Caesar, who did so when he created the Julian calendar Q: What does the traditional New Year’s song, Auld Lang Syne, mean? A: Written in 1788 by the favorite Scottish folk poet Robert Burns, “auld lang syne” translates to “old long since” - the olden days way of saying “the good ol’ days”. The song speaks to letting go of the past, and looking ahead to the next year with hope - a very fitting sentiment for the night. So this year when you sing, “Auld Lang Syne”, take a moment to reflect on the last 12 months, while setting sights on welcoming the next 12. Q: Who established the tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions? A: The Babylonians, whose most common resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. Q: What is the most popular New Year’s resolution in the United States today? A: To lose weight Q: Which city hosts the first major New Year’s Eve celebration each year? A: Sydney, Australia Q: What year did the first New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square? A: 1907 Q: Since its inaugural descent in 1907, the New Year’s Eve Ball has dropped every year except two. Which two years did the ball not drop? A: 1942 and 1943, due to wartime restrictions in New York City Q. How many New Year’s Eve balls have dropped in Times Square? A. 8 - 1907; 1920; 1955; 1980; 1988; 1995; 2000; 2008 History of New Year’s Two thousand years ago and then some, it is believed that Ancient Babylonians began their New Year with the first new moon after the Spring Equinox. A logical time to celebrate, spring brings with it new growth and has always been symbolic of hope and the promise of things to come. The Babylonians feasted for 11 days, each day with its own festive theme. Fast forward to Julius Caesar who, during a visit to Egypt around 150 B.C., found the calendar of his dreams. The Romans tried to follow the same cycle as set by the Egyptians with the New Year beginning in spring. But scholars and emperors continued to finagle with the calendar until it fell out of synchronization with the sun. The Roman senate, in an attempt to get everything back on track, named Jan. 1 as the first day of the year, and eventually it was entitled the Julian Calendar. Still the calendar was constantly being revised and manipulated by various people, until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian Calendar. This calendar set the dates in stone and offered a clear distinction of the four seasons. The Gregorian Calendar is what most of the Western world uses. The Legend of the “Midnight Kiss” - What it might foretell The midnight kiss is one of the nicest ways to ring in the moment of the New Year’s significance with those nearest and dearest. It is customary to kiss the one you love or hope to love at midnight as if to say, “Congratulations, to us for making it through another year.” Like kissing under the mistletoe, the custom of the kiss can be traced back to the ancient Roman merry making festival of Saturnalia, and observances around the Winter Solstice at year end (those Romans sure liked to celebrate with a kiss!). Later, the New Year’s Eve kiss would come to be a barometer for things to come. As English and German legend had it, the first person you came in contact with when the bells chimed twelve, be it a familiar, friendly face or inauspicious acquaintance, set the tone for your happiness and fortune in the coming year. A kiss with one you loved ensured affections and good tidings. To smooch someone less favorable, or not at all, could mean misfortune. In more recent times, the good luck ritual of the kiss has become a telling sign for matters of love and the heart - will this be the year that all my romantic wishes come true? Baby New Year and Father Time The tradition of a “Baby New Year” is said to have started in Greece around 600 B.C. In celebration of Dionysus, god of wine, a baby in a basket represented the annual rebirth of the god as the spirit of fertility. An obvious correlation, today Baby New Year symbolizes the young year, and old Father Time reminds us how the year has aged. However, it was the 14th century Germans who are credited with having a New Year’s banner with the image of a baby as a symbol of the New Year. Auld Lang Syne How many times have you found yourself on New Year’s eve, be it at a party or home watching the ball drop singing “Auld Lang Syne”, and wondering as you mouthed those odd yet familiar words - “whatever does this song mean?” Written in 1788 by the favorite Scottish folk poet Robert Burns, “auld lang syne” translates to “old long since” - the olden days way of saying “the good ol’ days.” The song speaks to letting go of the past, and looking ahead to the next year with hope - a very fitting sentiment for the night. So this year when you sing, “Auld Lang Syne”, take a moment to reflect on the last 12 months, while setting sights on welcoming the next 12. Noisemakers Church bells ring and people make a lot of noise all around the world when the clock strikes midnight. This tradition is believed to be from the ancient belief that if one was loud and made enough of a raucous they could drive evil spirits away. New Year’s Resolutions Whether it is be a silent promise to one’s self to stop telling white lies or a big declaration of intent to lose weight, a New Year’s resolution is a must. Many find it easier to make a fresh beginning as symbolized by Jan. 1.