VALDOSTA — Many will be celebrating the new year with a plate full of black-eyed peas and hog jowls to ensure good luck throughout the year while others will be making resolutions to try and better themselves in 2008. But why? When did all of these superstitions and good luck charms surrounding the new year begin?

For centuries, it was thought that one could influence the luck — or lack thereof — that they would receive throughout the coming year by what they did on the first day of the year. Jan. 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years, according to info.com. In fact, the month of January did not even exist until 700 B.C. when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius added the months of January and February. Before then, the new year was celebrated on the first day of the civil year — March 1. Before that time, the date of a new year celebration based on seasons, the first of which was believed to have been in Mesopotamia during the vernal equinox (first day of spring) in c. 2000 B.C.

In many regions of the United States — typically in the South — black-eyed peas and ham are considered a staple of the holiday’s traditions. As the old saying goes, “Eat peas on New Year’s Day to have plenty of

everything the rest of the year.” These and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, are also considered lucky because of its symbolization of prosperity. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity — due to their resemblance to paper money — and can be eaten on New Year’s to bring good fortune. Other countries around the world believe that anything in the shape of a ring — such as donuts — can symbolize “coming full circle” and should be eaten on the first day of the new year.

Resolutions have also been made — and broken — as part of New Year’s traditions since Babylonian times. Early Christians saw the act of making resolutions symbolic of reflecting on past mistake and resolving to improve oneself in the new year. Today, the top three most popular resolutions in America are to lose weight, stop smoking and spend more time with family, according to about.com.

Of course, no New Year’s holiday is complete without the New Year’s Eve celebration. In order to bring good luck and happiness for the next 365 days, many people ring in the first minutes of the new year in the company of family and friends. Old traditions say that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. The best of luck comes if the first visitor is a tall dark-haired man.

The tradition of making noise with pots and pans and party favors originally began in an effort to scare off evil spirits, which would result in good tidings in the year to come. And at the stroke of midnight in nearly every English-speaking country in the world the song, “Auld Lang Syne” is sung to bring in the new year. The song of friendship is translated to mean “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days”. The song, written in the 1700s by Robert Burns, is meant to remember the good times of the outgoing year while looking forward to a prosperous new one. The song became a New Year’s standard when a rendition was sung by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians at midnight at a New Year’s Eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929 — a tradition which continued into the 1970s. Life magazine once wrote that “If Lombardo failed to play ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ the American public would not believe that the new year had really arrived.”

In 1890 another New Year’s tradition began with the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, Calif. by former residents of the East and Midwest to showcase their new home’s mild winter weather.

Today, this tradition continues and is better known as the Rose Bowl and the Rose Bowl Parade. In 1902, the Tournament of Roses decided to enhance the day’s festivities by adding a football game — the first post-season college football game ever held. Stanford University accepted the invitation to take on the powerhouse University of Michigan, but the West Coast team was flattened 49-0 and gave up in the third quarter. The lopsided score prompted the Tournament to give up football in favor of Roman-style chariot races. In 1916, football returned to stay and the crowds soon outgrew the stands in Tournament Park, according to the official Tournament of Roses Web site. The 1947 contest was the first game played under the Tournament’s exclusive agreement with the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences.

The most famous U.S. New Year’s tradition is the ball drop in Times Square in New York City. Hosted by famous radio personality Dick Clark, the ball drop begins at 11:59 p.m. and coordinates the final minute of the year throughout the country. The tradition began in 1907 and has been continued every year except for two celebrations during World War II.

The original ball was made of iron and wood. The most current ball was made of Waterford Crystal, weighed 1,070 pounds and was six feet in diameter. This year, a brand new $1 million ball will make its Times Square debut commemorating the 100th ball drop ceremony. Waterford Crystal and two lighting design firms have collaborated on a glitzy yet “green” globe that reflects “a marriage of technology and tradition,” Times Square Alliance president Tim Tompkins stated in a USA Today article. The 1,212-pound computer-controlled ball incorporates 672 crystal triangles and 9,576 LED lights that can project 16 million color combinations in countless patterns — yet the creators say it uses only the same amount of energy as 10 toasters.

Depending on weather, 500,000 to 1 million revelers are expected to jam the streets around One Times Square to witness the ball’s debut, and 1 billion TV and online viewers are expected to tune in around the world.

However and wherever the new year is celebrated, let 2008 begin with joy and hope for the coming year.





Auld Lang Syne



Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

for auld lang syne,

we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.



Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and days of auld lang syne?

And here’s a hand, my trusty friend

And gie’s a hand o’ thine

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne

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