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New Year History & Traditions ~ Ink Spot

As we enter the year of 2024, I started thinking about the history and traditions some of us have related to starting a new year. As such, I did some research on history and traditions mixed with some of my life experiences thus far.

I learned that new year’s celebrations date back over 4000 years to ancient civilizations. Many celebrations included festivals and celebrations to ring in the new year. Some even celebrate for a series of days. I also learned that some of these celebrations did not occur on Dec 31 but as late as March in conjunction with the first full moon. This date marked the start of the new year on the Julian calendar, which was used at the time. After the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, the new year celebration moved to January 1st.

Currently the many ways that the new year is celebrated have been created by various people and cultures over the years and mostly curated in the 20th century.

Some common traditions include attending parties, watching fireworks, making resolutions, spending time with loved ones, “watch night” or New Year’s Eve services at churches, the New York City ball drop, and more! Some cultures have specific traditions that people take part in such as in Japan, people celebrate by visiting temples to pray for good luck in the new year.

For the ball drop, millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual. Many have watched from their homes or out and about and counted down from 10 to shout together, “Happy New Year!” and exchange celebratory greetings.

Watch Night or “Freedom’s Eve,” as it was named in 1862 marked when African Americans across the country watched and waited for the news of freedom. Today, Watch Night is an annual New Year’s Eve tradition that includes the memory of slavery and freedom, reflections on faith, and celebration of community and strength.

On the night of December 31, 1862, enslaved and free African Americans gathered, many in secret, to ring in the new year and await news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. Just a few months earlier, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the executive order that declared enslaved people in the rebelling Confederate States legally free. However, the decree would not take effect until the clock struck midnight at the start of the new year.

Personally, over the years, I have participated in church services and enjoyed a message/ word about the new year along with those in attendance. I have also attended parties along with spending time with family. One time in my life, in my twenties, I was in New York for the ball drop, which was pretty amazing!
In addition to celebrations, there are also some food traditions in certain cultures and communities.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Dating back to the Civil War, Black Eyed Peas were traditionally eaten on New Years Eve or Day to bring prosperity and luck to those who ate them. It has evolved into a tradition by many over the years. While many people around the country enjoy black eyed peas, the largest consumers of them are in the southern US.

Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, and other countries. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece, and elsewhere. In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

As far as goals and resolutions to reset for the year, the most popular resolution is to lose weight, followed by exercising more and saving money. Some participate in vision board events where you may gather with a group and create a poster board of things to focus on for the year. I have tried to do this myself or with a group annually and place it in an area where I can constantly see if I’m on track with the goals I’ve set for myself for the year. I have also started to have a word for the year which I write on my mirror to see each morning as I start my day. So far, my words have been peace, then joy; both relevant to the year prior and what I was praying for or putting in the atmosphere for my year to come. This year’s word is Patience.

Whatever you do or what your traditions are, I want to wish you a blessed, peaceful, and prosperous start to your new year. I pray you do or receive everything your heart desires by focusing on it and doing your best! Happy 2024!

This column is sponsored by The Fort Wayne Ink Spot, a black-owned Indiana newspaper focusing on regional and national stories, especially those impacting African Americans and minorities. This collaboration with The Waynedale News aims to promote diversity, inclusivity, and appreciation for the local black community. By representing all residents’ voices, unity and understanding flourish. Follow FWIS on Facebook and Instagram, or find a retailer at www.fwinkspot.com.

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FWIS is a black-owned, Indiana based newspaper that discusses regional and national stories that highlight individuals in the community as well as topics that affect African Americans (and other minority groups). > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer