The Pagan Heart
Seasonal Festivals

January 2005 Issue

New Year's Day

By Nokomis Dream


All around the world, people celebrate the approaching New Year and in many countries, the celebrations revolve around food. Just reading this made me pack on the dreaded after-holiday weight!

In Austria, the symbol for good luck in the New Year is a suckling pig, served on a table decorated with tiny edible pigs. Afterward, dessert is green peppermint icecream in the shape of a four leaf clover. In Sicily, tradition says good luck will come to those who eat lasagna on New Year's Day, but woe if you dine on macaroni, for any other noodle will bring bad luck. In Spain, when the clock strikes midnight, the locals eat 12 grapes, one for every toll, to bring good luck for the 12 months ahead. The Peruvian New Year's custom is a spin on the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at the turn of the year - there a 13th grape must be eaten for good luck.

In Greece, a special New Year's bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough. The first slice, they believe, is for the Christ child, the second is for the father of the household and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early that year. New Year's Day is also the Festival of Saint Basil. Children leave their shoes by the fire on New Year's Day with the hope that Basil, who was famous for his kindness, will come and fill their shoes with gifts.

Norwegians make rice pudding at New Year's and hide one whole almond within. Wealth goes to the person whose pudding holds the lucky almond. The Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.

In the United States, some residents celebrate by eating black-eyed peas. They are usually eaten with hog jowls or ham. The peas are considered good luck, in some cultures, and the hog is thought to be lucky, as it is a symbol of prosperity. For some, rice is the food of choice, to be eaten on New Year's Day, and still others are drawn to cabbage, as they feel it is a representative of paper money.

Added to the food blitz, in some cultures, is a bit of home decorating. Japanese people decorate their homes in tribute to lucky gods. One tradition, called kadomatsu, is the giving of a pine branch which symbolizes longevity, plum blossom showing nobility, and a bamboo stalk symbolizing prosperity.

For the Chinese New Year, which falls between January 17 and February 19 at the time of the new moon, every front door is given a fresh coat of red paint. Red is the symbol of good luck and happiness - Chinese brides also wear red. The whole family prepares the feast for the New Year, but all knives are put away for 24 hours to keep anyone from cutting themselves on the day. If someone does cut themself, it is believed that it will cut the family's good luck for the next year.

The noisemaking and fireworks traditional to New Year's Eve originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to get rid of evil spirits and bring good luck for the new year.

The British center their celebrations around guests. They believe that the fortune for the coming year is determined by their first guest. The first visitor should be male and bearing gifts. Some traditional gifts are coal for the fire, a loaf for the table and a drink for the head of the house. The guest should enter through the front door and leave through the back, for good luck. Guests who are empty-handed or unwanted are not allowed to enter first.

At the first toll of midnight in Wales people open the back door and then shut it release the old year and lock out all of its bad luck. At the last stroke of midnight, the front door is opened up and the New Year is welcomed in, along with all of its luck.

For Haitians clothing plays a big part in the observance of New Years traditions. They wear new clothes and exchange gifts in the hope that it will bode well for the New Year.

In Iran, New Year's Day falls in March according to the solar calendar, and it ushers in bahar, "the beginning of spring."

In the United States, the kiss at the stroke of midnight is taken from masked balls that have been common throughout history. In tradition, the masks symbolize evil spirits from the old year and the kiss cleanses the New Year. The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. Members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers to celebrate the ripening of the orange crop in California. Even though the Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, it was replaced by Roman chariot races the next year. The football game returned as the sports centerpiece of the festival, in 1916. In these more modern times, fathers around the country can be heard yelling at dogs and small children to "Stay clear of the tv!", so that they do not miss the blessed football mania. While in the next room, women tell those same children to keep their dirty little hands out of the chips and dips.

History of New Year's Day

By Nokomis Dream


Every December in America you can hear a very common statement. It usually begins with, "This year, my resolution is going to be...". So I started wondering. Is it an "American thing"? Go type in a couple of searches on my old trusty computer, ask some local people what they think, and voila!

Locally, there were some interesting comments:

  1. Who really cares?
  2. The Pilgrims brought them over.
  3. Something the Republicans are trying to trick us with (yes, the usual conspiracy theorist).

The answers were starting to give me a headache, so I decided to focus my article on the real historical aspect.

What I found was actually quite interesting. From everything online, the concensus is that the tradition of the New Year's Resolution goes all the way back to 153 B.C. There was a Roman God, Janus, who was placed at the head of the calendar. He became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies, before starting the New Year.

Janus was always depicted with two faces (such as the image at the top of this page) - one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could look backward and forward at the same time. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new. The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year's Eve by giving one another branches from sacred trees for good fortune. Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more common New Year's gifts.

On a more modern note, I found 8,300,000 hits, when I typed in "History of New Years Resolutions". There are websites devoted to helping you keep your New Year's Resolution; a "how to" guide; ideas for people, from preschool age on up, on what they could make a New Years resolution about; and another site urging you to sign up for a trek to China, to announce your New Year's Resolution while on the trek. Are people more likely to keep their resolutions, if they announce it on a website? Yes, there is indeed one out there, just for that! Oh, and don't forget Fido. Someone made a special site for you to make your pet a New Year's Resolution too.

Don't you just love the information super highway?

New Year's 2004: Sorrow Amidst the Celebration

By Albineus Equinus


The earthquake that sent tsunamis tearing into the coastlines of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Brunei did more than affect the world's rotation. It crossed all the artificial boundaries we create to draw people of all faiths, all races, all ideologies together. This is not to say there haven't been moments to mar the efforts of the world to help those devastated by this disaster, but overall we have responded in unity.

My only question is why we need such a monumental tragedy to unite us?

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