Blog #20 - By DVW - Homes on the Sunshine Coast - The New Year 2017!

Posted by Cheyenne Howitt on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 at 11:46am.

The celebration of the New Year is worldwide. It is perhaps the only holiday that is universal. Everywhere it is part of the culture. It is not celebrated on the same day due to different calendars. Most of the western world use the Gregorian calendar, which has also been adopted by Japan. Russia and the Eastern Orthodox Churches operate by the Julian calendar. Much of the Eastern world, including China, operate on the Lunar calendar.

Customs and practices vary from country to country and sometimes from village to village. Generally, the message is to put the old year with all of its troubles behind you and to look with hope and optimism for the new year ahead of you. 

The celebration of the New Year as a special event and is purported to have begun in Ancient Babylon but with no specific date. This practice seems to have lasted until just before the Christian era when Julius Caesar proposed that New Year should be on the first of January and that has been the fixed date on the Julian, and on the later, Gregorian calendars.

Many countries had unique New Year’s practices, but in the present age, if they are practiced at all, they can only be observed in more remote areas of the country. For instance, in England, there used to be a custom that the first guest through the front door on New Year’s Day brings good fortune. The guest had to be male and bring a gift of a loaf, a drink for the master of the house or coal. If he did not bring such a gift he was not to be allowed into the house.

In China, it used to be the custom to hide all the knives as the superstition was if anyone in the family cut themselves on New Year’s Day they would cut off the family’s luck for the coming year. In Japan, it was the custom to visit the temples where the bells of the temple were rung precisely 108 times to ward off evil spirits. The Japanese also made decorative rise cakes called "Mochis".

The New Year has been a festival of rebirth for thousands of years. There are modern traditions as well. New Year’s Eve parties have become popular over the last 150 years and there are traditions associated with these parties. One is the consumption of champagne. Another are various types of noise makers which are activated at midnight. It is then popular in the whole English speaking world to join hands in a circle and sing "Auld Lang Syne", which can be interpreted as "the good old days". This popular song was at least partially written by the Scottish poet Robbie Burns in the 1700s. After the singing, there is the exchange of greetings, both verbal and with much hugging and kissing.

A Sunshine Coast tradition is the Polar Bear swim at Davis Bay, where brave persons plunge briefly into the frigid waters to exit quickly for a warm towel and a hot drink. Coastal communities in Canada and North Europe enact this ritual annually. Originally, in Europe, it symbolized the cleansing of your troubles.


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