By Mary O’KEEFE
It is 2024 and for many of us this year, more than any other (at least in most of our lifetimes), brings uncertainty and concern. But we are not the first to wonder what the new year will bring in uncertain times … and we will not be the last.
The first known record of New Year’s celebrations was around 2000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, according to resolutiondenver.com.
So then the New Year occurred not at the end of December but in March at the time of the vernal equinox, which in 2024 will be on March 19. Babylonians would have a religious festival named Akitu, from the Sumerian term for barley. This celebration would last 11 days. This, of course, was also the time when the Babylonian sky god Marduk defeated the evil sea goddess Tiamat.
Around the world the celebration of the New Year occurred during different times of the year; the Egyptians celebrated the New Year at the start of fall and the Greeks celebrated during the winter solstice.
The origin of Jan. 1 as New Year’s Day occurred around 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar developed the solar-based Julian calendar, after the old Roman lunar calendar was no longer effective. As with most holidays, religion played a role in the Jan. 1 celebration as it was a time to honor the Roman god of beginnings – Janus – who had two faces. This seems to be the perfect god for the old year passing and the new year beginning as his two faces can look back at the past while looking toward the future.
There are several traditions that go along with the New Year including what food to eat. In Spain it is traditional to eat 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve as the clock counts down to midnight. In other countries it’s all about round cakes; some with toys or coins inside. In Austria, Portugal and Cuba it is lucky to eat pork – it’s not really that lucky for pigs but for humans apparently it is thought to attract prosperity. Eating soba noodles symbolizes the journey from the old year to the New Year in Japan.
And then of course there is the underwear tradition. Apparently in countries like Latin America there is a superstition that you can manifest success and prosperity if you choose the right color of underwear. For example, people who want to be lucky in love and relationships wear red; those who want money and happiness wear yellow, according to resolutiondenver.com.
That kiss at midnight can be traced to Saturnalia, a pagan festival in ancient Rome that included a lot of singing, dancing and drinking. Now that kiss can bring a lot of responsibility as well. In German and English culture it is thought that the person you kiss at midnight contributes to the fate of your year.
The practice of New Year resolutions is as old as the celebration themselves. Ancient Babylonians included this practice in their celebrations. They would include resolutions like being a better person or paying off debts in the New Year.
According to WalletHub, on average 44% of Americans make a New Year’s resolution and only about 31% of people stick with those self-imposed promises; a whopping 81% fail by February.
So here is my hope for New Year’s resolutions that we can all keep. We remember that littering, even just a little bit, is too much; we all will try to reduce our carbon footprint; and instead of wondering what we can get from our planet, we ask what can we do to protect her.
The weather word this week is “cool” – maybe even Southern California cold – with highs in the low 60s. Oh my goodness – the words “cold” and “highs in the low 60s” sound weird to my Midwestern ears but I have been in California long enough that those temperatures actually sound cold.
NOAA expected some showers last night through early this morning but there doesn’t appear to be any thunderstorm activity. There should be snow down to the 4500 to 4000 foot levels. Today through Saturday should be cool but clear but then there is another system moving in this weekend – on Sunday – that for our area should bring more breezy conditions instead of being a real rainmaker. The chance of rain is at 30% on Sunday.
NOAA only forecasts seven days into the future; however, looking at the rest of January we could see an above normal chance of rain, according to meteorologist John Dumas.