Tradition, resolutions usher in the new year - News, Weather & Sports

Tradition, resolutions usher in the new year

The ball in Times Square will be lowered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. (Source: NY1/CNN) The ball in Times Square will be lowered by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. (Source: NY1/CNN)

(RNN) - Tonight, a ball will drop, corks will pop, people will make toasts and declare resolutions that in some cases will be broken immediately.

New Year's celebrations date back at least to ancient Babylon - some 4,000 years ago. However, the Babylonians, as well as other ancient cultures, celebrated the new year on the vernal equinox. Thank Julius Caesar for changing the date to Jan. 1 to honor the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and passages.

And true to ancient Rome's reputation for debauchery, they threw some extremely non-family-friendly parties to celebrate.

Getting a fresh start is the reason many people make resolutions, especially to try to improve health, pay down debt, volunteer and be a nicer person - and perhaps even avoid some of those time-sucking smartphone games.

"Be nicer, be more tolerant, no carbs, no cussing, no Candy Crush," Amber Moore posted on WCSC's Facebook page, managing to summarize many of the most popular resolutions.

Others resolve to swear off resolutions. Betty Flowers posted on WAFF's Facebook page that it's easy to let specific resolutions fall by the wayside; instead she makes two promises to herself.

"This year is just to try to save a little more and to spend a little more time on myself," she wrote.

But before saddling themselves with pesky resolutions, it's time to ring in the new with celebration.

In the United States, many of the New Year's traditions have been around for more than a century, even reaching back into English and European traditions - many having to do with attracting good luck and warding off bad.

The first New Year's Eve celebration in the United States was held in New York City's Times Square in 1904.

The New York Times moved into a new building on Longacre Square, and the owner of the paper, Adolph Ochs, lobbied the city to change the name of the area to Times Square. To celebrate the newspaper's new digs, Ochs set off fireworks at midnight on New Year's Eve. After a couple of years, the city nixed the fireworks, so in 1907 Ochs hired a sign maker to make a lighted ball to be lowered, and thus the tradition was born.

According to the Times Square Alliance, the original ball was made of wood, iron and 100 25-watt light bulbs.

The ball has had a substantial upgrade since the first drop.

This year it weighs 11,875 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and is made out of 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles and 32,256 LEDs.

The tradition spawned lots of other "ball drops" throughout the country.

Another tradition Americans have celebrated via the medium of TV has been Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Clark, who died in 2012, hosted the nationally broadcast New Year's Eve celebration every year but one dating back to 1972. He missed in 2005 after suffering a stroke.

ABC brought on Ryan Seacrest to help Clark with hosting duties after the stroke, and for a second year in a row Seacrest will ring in the new year on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2014.

If you're celebrating at a party or watching the ball drop on television at home, you will probably attempt to sing the tune Auld Lange Syne at midnight. "Auld Lange Syne" translates to "times gone by" in Scottish dialect and is a poem by famous Scottish poet Robert Burns put to music. Singing the song was popularized in 1929 by band leader Guy Lombardo at a New Year's Eve celebration in New York City.

Celebrants are supposed to link arms and sing the song - but very few people know the words and those who are singing the loudest may also be holding up those who've had too much Champagne.

The Champagne toast to good health and a happy new year is similar to the 18th-century English tradition of drinking spiced wine, according to The History Channel. And if you've drunk enough Champagne to give yourself the liquid courage to kiss someone, superstition has it that smooching at midnight will either strengthen your relationship with that person or that the kiss will keep you from being lonely that year

On New Year's Day, many people in the U.S., especially in the Southern states, eat Hoppin' John, a dish of rice, black-eyed peas, greens - usually collards or turnip greens, but mustard or any green will do - and sometimes includes bacon or a pig jowl. The black-eyed peas and greens represent money - the peas as pennies and the greens as dollar bills - and the ham or bacon are for health. And they taste pretty good, too.

However, many folks near the Cleveland area posted on WOIO's Facebook page that they eat a different dish: pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.

Other traditions that seem to have the theme of a clean slate include making sure all bills are paid so that the household has no debt and will enjoy prosperity through the year, and keeping a clean home, with no dirty laundry, and no garbage in the house.

Whether you toast to health, eat black eyed peas, or watch some object drop on New Year's, good will and a good time seem to be a theme.

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