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The Old Year Now Away is Fled – The New Year It is Entered

By Deb Thomas.

Happy Hogmanay! Bonne Annee! Aith-bhliain fe mhaise dhuit! Godt Nytt Ar! Buon Capo d’Auno! Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! Shana Tova! Gutes Neues Jahr!

Stepping_out_for_the_New_Year2The languages may be different, but the greeting is the same; Happy New Year! Often marked by noisy celebrations, the end of the year can be a time for reflection, and a time to set goals for the new year. January 1st is recognized as an American Federal and State holiday, and many other countries and cultures also celebrate this day with festivities the night before, and on January first. They all revolve around saying goodbye to the old year, and setting goals and stating wishes to bring happiness and success in the new year. It’s a tabula rasa for many; a clean slate upon which to write goals, plans, hopes and dreams for the year ahead.


The New Year signifies a new start; a renewal. In the spirit of celebration over this renewal, modern cultural activities although modernized, share the same basic thought of being happy for new beginnings.

The tradition is thought to have originated among ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and begin a new year on a good note. It was a time they could settle accounts and bring back borrowed farming tools. Similarly, the custom of breaking those resolutions and promises (statistics tell us is more likely to occur than making the goal stick) probably happened soon after, as well (Festive Facts).

January is aptly named for Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transformation. He’s depicted as a two-faced god, looking back and forward; the symbolism isn’t lost on naming the first month of the year. Additionally, Janus was worshipped at the beginnings of planting and at harvest.

As one of the oldest holidays, and until the Julian calendar (implemented by Julius Caesar), New Year’s Day wasn’t always January first. Similarly, customs varied, owing first to more Pagan festivities, commemorating natural Earth cycles which in time,  became wrapped up in Christianity’s better known holidays in order to win converts. Although some still honor religious ties, in modern times, New Year’s Day has greatly separated from its religious associations and is now celebrated more or less, in accordance with one’s heritage, and nationality.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:


It’s 15 degrees and sleeting; perfect weather for a refreshing dip! Will you be making a Polar Plunge? Used for fund-raising or awareness for a cause, jumping in near freezing water has become the ultimate New Year activity for a few brave individuals.

Another custom lots of people do, is to make resolutions; something to change or do differently, or plan anew. Advertising campaigns for weight-loss solutions (and new cars) seem to blanket all media. Social media is filled with similar poster-like messages of faith in mankind and renewal of the soul-affirmations.


Other countries and cultures celebrate the New Year differently than America and England (from Scholastic): 

Indonesia also has two New Year celebrations — the official one on January 1 and another on the Islamic New Year, whose date varies from year to year.

The Russian Orthodox Church observes the New Year according to the Julian calendar, which places the day on January 14.

Vietnam the new year usually begins in February.

Iran celebrates New Year’s Day on March 21.

Each of the religious groups in India has its own date for the beginning of the year. One Hindu New Year, Baisakhi, comes sometime in April or May.

The people in Morocco observe the beginning of the year on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic year.

The Koreans celebrate their New Year the first three days in January.


Others have customs of celebrating the new year with parties, dinners, family gatherings, as on other holidays. Some watch parades in person or on T.V.  Some families have foods they traditionally serve on New Year’s Day in order to bring luck and prosperity into one’s life. One custom dictates that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you’ll be doing all year long; other customs or superstitions warn that you’re not supposed to take out the trash or do chores, cry, or break anything. In some cultures, the person who comes in one door must go out a different door on New Year’s Day. If you avoid these warnings or do these things – you’ll be in line to have a pretty good year, if you believe in these customs. Some people believe alternately, that if you avoid making resolutions altogether, you won’t be disappointed at all.



You may want to research additional New Year’s customs at this website, which is a terrific go-to site for debunking “urban myths,” as well. Try it for all those chain letters telling you to do this certain thing or else—such as – “Input your PIN backwards to alert the police if you are being robbed at an ATM !” (won’t work!). Or, if you want to read the fascinating back-stories on many internet related oddities.


Toasting to our Good Health

We toast, we drink; we eat certain foods on New Year’s Day to also honor traditions. Toasts involve stating how thankful we are for what we have and maybe, with whom we are sharing the event. We drink to the health and happiness of everyone; some people say simply, “Cheers!” while others opine wittily; “Here’s to us and those like us, damn few!” This is a favorite toast from my mother’s Scottish side of our family and is often repeated at our gatherings. The whole of the Scottish verse is sometimes attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns*;

Here’s tae us
Wha’s like us
Damn few,
And they’re a’ deid
Mair’s the pity!

May those who live truly be always believed,
And those who deceive us be always deceived.
Here’s to the men of all classes,
Who through lasses and glasses
Will make themselves asses!

I drink to the health of another,
And the other I drink to is he
In the hope that he drinks to another,
And the other he drinks to is me.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand
And may his great prosperity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

(*While the whole of this is often attributed to Robert Burns, I could find no other credible citation in some of my own reference material, or on-line, for the middle two stanzas of this verse; here’s an opportunity for further investigation! The last stanza is from Burns’ poem, “John Barleycorn: A Ballad.”)

Other wise and witty toasts for the auspicious New Year, are just as apropos:

 “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” –William Shakespeare, English playwright.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” -Thomas Edison, American inventor.

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” -Nelson Mandela, South African revolutionary/politician.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, American first lady.

The custom of toasting can be traced to Greek culture who poured wine for refreshment to guests from pitchers; a host would then have the first taste. This guaranteed the wine wasn’t poisoned, which had become, at one time, the optimum means to kill off one’s enemy or taking care of a problem person. In this backward way, this host’s first drink became a symbol of friendship as the host would then raise his glass to friends to signify that the wine  was good to drink.

Folk lore suggests that when invading Romans captured Greek villages, those clever Greeks tainted the wine with pine pitch, making it bitter. As a remedy, Romans dropped pieces of burnt or, toasted bread into the wine to counteract the bitterness. The Latin word “tostus,” means roasted; the words, “let’s toast!” came to signify the act of drinking to something special or, one’s good health.

Clock_and_Champagne_for_New_Year's2“In the 1700’s, party-goers even liked to toast to the health of people not present — usually celebrities and especially beautiful women. A women who became the object of many such toasts, came to be known as the ‘toast of the town.’ ” (from this website)

Americans who celebrate the passing of one year into the next may have parties, celebrate alone, with a few people or with large numbers of friends and family. We might make resolutions and some might be at Times Square in New York City to see the crystal ball drop as the stroke of midnight happens on December 31. The festivities continue into New Year’s Day (with or without hangovers), with more food and possibly watching the Rose Bowl football game. Some go for a walk, or contemplate the new year quietly. Most Americans have a New Year’s Day meal of some kind. Certain foods are also customary to eat in certain families, other countries and cultures. Among others, it’s considered good luck for the coming year to have circular shaped food, black-eyed peas, cabbage and pork.

Drinking Champagne

What you drink when you toast has come a long way since Greek and Roman days. It is customary for people to drink something special for parties and celebrations, and New Year’s Eve and Day are no exceptions. And, a special celebration calls for something equally as important; Champagne, which is a custom, “loosely associated with drinking something fine enough for the gods, a remnant of the holiday’s religious significance back in the Babylonian days. As the opulence and price of Champagne rose in the early 19th century, so did public reverence for the effervescent spirit. But we’ve come a long way since then, and there is surely more on cocktail menus and in home bars to create mixed drinks decadent enough for deities, and you.” (Reference)



It’s the countdown, the last few seconds of the old year. Traditionally, your significant other is near; you are on standby. “THREE!-TWO!-ONE!” Instantly, “Auld Lang Syne” usually starts playing, confetti fills the air, champagne corks pop, and time stands still while you smooch someone for good luck. The words translate literally as “old long since.” Scottish poet Robert Burns is credited with writing a more modern version of an old Scottish tune about reminiscing of days long past, the “good old days,” although it was not published until after his death in 1796. If you are a Baby Boomer, or older, you may have the warbly notes of the clarinet from “Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians” permanently imprinted in your memory as they intone the notes of Auld Lang Syne.  A few contemporary songs such as Dan Fogelberg’s The Same Old Lang Syne, and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” first sung by Ella Fitzgerald (more recently done by Harry Connick) are also on many playlists come New Year’s Eve.Guy_Lombardo

New Year’s Day has been a celebration of renewal, rebirth and inward contemplation, all over the world for thousands of years. It’s a great new year ahead for us in Haddam, too. So, what are you planning for 2015? Whatever you do, however you may celebrate or not, here’s to a wonderful year ahead; make it a good one!

Greensleeves – Traditional, 1642, from the New Oxford Book of Carols

The old yeare now away is fled
The new year it is entered;
Then let us now our sins downe tread
And joyfully all appeare.
Let’s merry be this holy day
And let us now both sport and play
Hang sorrow! Let’s cast care away
God send you a happy new yeare!

More New Year’s Music to consider (thanks to Billboard Music): 

“Auld Lang Syne (The New Year’s Anthem),”  Mariah Carey

“Bringing in a Brand New Year,”  Charles Brown

“Celtic New Year,”  Van Morrison

“Christmas Ain’t Christmas, New Year’s Ain’t New Year’s,”  O’Jays

“Congratulations – A Happy New Year Song,”  Pink Martini

“Funky New Year,”  Eagles

“Gonna Make It Through This Year,”  Great Lake Swimmers

“Happy New Year,”  Abba

“Happy New Year,”  Judy Garland

“Happy New Year B,” “Rent”  Original Cast

“Have a Very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year,”  TLC

“It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve,”  Barry Manilow

“Let’s Start the New Year Right,”  Bing Crosby

“A Long December,”  Counting Crows

“Maybe Baby (New Year’s Day),”  Sugarland
“Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,”  Jimi Hendrix

“My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year),”  Regina Spektor

“The New Year,”  Death Cab for Cutie

“New Year’s Day,”  U2

“New Year’s Eve,”  Snoop Dogg featuring Marty James

“New Year’s Eve 1999,”  Alabama with Gretchen Peters

“New Year’s Eve Party,”  George Thorogood

“New Year’s Prayer,”  Jeff Buckley

“New Year’s Resolution,”  Otis Redding and Carla Thomas

“Next Year,”  Foo Fighters

“1999,”  Prince

“Nothin’ New for New Year,”  Harry Connick, Jr.

“Our New Year,”  Tori Amos

“Same Old Lang Syne,”  Dan Fogelberg

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,”  Ella Fitzgerald

“What Will the New Year Bring?”  Donna Fargo