What is so Weird & Odd about January?

 

The month of January is recognized globally as the beginning of the new year.  On December 31st people will congregate in large to small groups from within the biggest cities to small villages worldwide to celebrate the beginning of what is to come.  Traditions such as singing “Auld Lang Syne”, shooting off fireworks, shooting guns in the air, coming up with a new year’s resolution, and kissing after the stroke of midnight are all common to this day.  What are the meanings and origins of these customs? What other traditions do people partake in to welcome in the new year?

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Janus

The month of January was named after the Roman god Janus in 46 B.C. by emperor Julius Caesar.  Janus was the protector of gates and doorways. He was portrayed as having two faces, one face looking into the past and the other looking into the future.  Janus was the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He presided over the beginning and end of conflicts, such as war and peace.  The gates of a building in Rome that were named after Janus were opened in times of war and closed to signify the arrival of peace. It is safe to assume that these gates were open for business often because the Romans were constantly at war.

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John Masey Wright and John Rogers illustration of the poem, c. 1841

Auld Lang Syne

A Scottish poet by the name of Robert Burns wrote 6 volumes totaling 160 Scottish folk songs in “The Scots Musical Museum” that was published between the years of 1787-1803.  “Auld Lang Syne” appears in volume 5. Robert Burns noted that he didn’t write the song itself, he stated that it was an ancient Scottish folk song, but he was the first to put it down on paper.  For those who are not familiar with this tune I have provided a link below.

Auld Lang Syne

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Ring out the Old and Ring in the New

Making a lot of noise seems to be a very common tradition throughout the world when it comes to celebrating the new year.  In ancient Thailand firing guns in the air was believed to frighten off demons. In China shooting off fireworks was also done for similar purposes.  In North America today the sounds of sirens and party horns would ring through the air to bid the old year farewell. The Japanese will ring large temple bells at the stroke of midnight.

Speaking of shooting guns in the air, GRAVITY WORKS!  When someone shoots their gun in the air the bullet will come down and could possibly kill someone.  At least use blanks if you’re going to participate in this particular activity. That is what a responsible gun owner would do.

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New Year’s Resolutions

The tradition of coming up with a New Year’s Resolution can be traced back to the Babylonians.  They would reportedly make promises to the gods in hopes of gaining favor in the coming year. It is still to this day a common practice at New Year’s Eve parties to come up with a New Year’s resolution, but unfortunately it is also common that they are rarely ever kept.  According to a professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago; Joe Ferrari, to improve the chances of a resolution to be kept one should share their resolution with others to help hold them accountable.

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Pass the Binaca spray

Kissing someone is a very old tradition to celebrate the new year.  During the celebration of Saturnalia, a Roman festival that occurred during the winter solstice, orgies would take place that also involved a lot of kissing.  For more information on Saturnalia.  Saturnalia is also part of why we today kiss under the mistletoe.

In Ancient Greece, to celebrate the festival, people would also kiss underneath the mistletoe because the plant represented fertility.  During the Renaissance era in Europe, people would remove the masks at the masquerade balls and kiss to purify each other from evil. It was also a way of starting off the new year with a clean slate.  In English and German folklore it was believed that a kiss at midnight would strengthen a romance, and those who avoid a kiss would be doomed to be loveless throughout the rest of the year.

For those who are single and can’t find a date for the New Year’s Eve parties, no need to feel left out.  With a little bit of money you can travel to Scotland. The Scottish celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish new year celebration.  At the stroke of midnight everyone in the room receives a kiss. The tradition connects friends and strangers. It is also to make the single people feel included.  God bless the Scottish!

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Other traditions from around the world

  • In Spain, it is customary to eat 12 grapes, one each at the stroke of the clock at midnight.  Each grape represents good luck for each month of the new year.
  • In Columbia, in hopes of a good travel-filled year, people will carry empty suitcases around the block.
  • The people of Denmark will throw plates and glasses against the doors of family and friends to banish bad spirits.  They also like to stand on chairs and jump off at midnight to leap into January for good luck.
  • In Finland, people will try to predict the  coming year by casting molten tin into a container of water, then interpret the shape the metal takes form of after hardening.  A heart or ring is a sign of a wedding, a ship predicts a journey, and a pig signifies that there will be plenty of food.
  • To ward off evil spirits, burning of effigies (muñecos) of well known people, fictional characters, or political figures in Panama.
  • Round shapes are very commonly seen in the  Philippines during the new year. The shape represents coins to symbolize prosperity.  Many people will wear clothes with polka dots for luck.
  • In Brazil as well as other Central and South American countries it is believed that if you wear a certain color of underwear on New Year’s Eve good luck will follow.  Red underwear is thought to bring love and yellow is believed to bring money.
  • An onion is traditionally hung on the front door of homes on New Year’s Eve in Greece as a symbol of rebirth.  On New Year’s day, parents will wake up their children by tapping them on the head with the onion.

What to do after the party ends…

After the hangover wears off there are still plenty of things to do in this month.  January has been recognized as the National clean up your computer month. For those who were thinking about  breaking out the water and bleach solution, DO NOT! For more information on how to clean your computer check out How to clean your computer.

The National Tea Council of the USA has also claimed January as National Hot Tea Month.  On January 12th it is National Hot Tea Day. The Tea council of the United States was founded in 1950 as a nonprofit organization that facilitates a partnership among tea importers, tea packers and other related industries in the United States along with other tea producers from other countries.

From The Weird and The Odd,

Have a happy new year!

References

New Year. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2064.html

Dove, L. L. (2012, December 17). Why do people make New Year’s resolutions? Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-other/why-make-new-years-resolutions1.htm

Dodgson, L. (2017, December 31). This is why we kiss each other at midnight on New Year’s Eve – and it dates back thousands of years. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/why-we-kiss-each-other-on-new-years-eve-2017-12

Robert Burns Country: The official Robert Burns site. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from http://www.robertburns.org/

The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne | Scotland is Now. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.scotland.org/features/the-history-and-words-of-auld-lang-syne

9 New Year’s Traditions From Cultures Around The World. (2017, October 09). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://worldstrides.com/blog/2016/12/9-new-years-traditions-cultures-around-world/

Old Farmer’s Almanac. (n.d.). New Year’s Traditions From Around the World. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.almanac.com/content/new-years-traditions-around-world

Old Farmer’s Almanac. (n.d.). Daily Calendar for December 31st, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://www.almanac.com/calendar/date/2017-12-31

National Hot Tea Month Highlights the Love of Tea. (2018, September 25). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from https://worldteanews.com/tea-industry-news-and-features/national-hot-tea-month-highlights-love-tea

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