Is there anything better?
A clean, fresh slate.
The intoxicating smell of possibilities.
And every year we get to CELEBRATE new beginnings at New Years.
A great time to reassess our goals (going plant-based anyone?), renew vows about our important values and rejoice in our relationships—both old and new.
January 1st Wasn’t Always the Day…
Did you know that New Year’s Day was not always celebrated on January 1st?
Originally the coming of the New Year was celebrated in late March—when spring begins with the Vernal Equinox.
The spring New Year tradition began with the ancient Babylonians whose celebrations lasted up to 11 days. The Romans followed suit with the March New Year but in 153 BC decided to change their calendar—and the date of the New Year–to January 1st.
While those who celebrate New Year’s on the 1st follow the Gregorian calendar, it is important to note there are dozens of cultures around the world who celebrate their New Year’s Eves at completely different times of the years. For example, the Chinese Year falls somewhere between January 20th and February 20th each year depending on the lunar calendar while the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) falls in either September or October.
How Different Countries Celebrate the New Year
Each country has a different tradition built around the New Year’s. Here are a few of them:
Japan. The most important holiday of the year for the Japanese, the New Year is a symbol of renewal. The Japanese hold Bonenkai (‘forget-the-year’ parties) to say goodbye to past year’s problems and welcome in a new beginning. Grudges are forgiven. Houses are scrubbed. At midnight on December 31st, the Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, symbolically expelling 108 human weaknesses.
Spain. In Spain, everyone eats twelve grapes at night; each grape is a symbol of the twelve happy months ahead in the New Year.
The Netherlands. The Dutch use their Christmas trees to burn bonfires; the fires are lit to get rid of the old and welcome the new.
Greece. In Greece, New Year’s is also a religious celebration—the festival of St. Basil, one of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church. One of the traditional foods is Vassilopitta (St. Basil’s cake) which is baked with a silver or golden coin inside. As legend has it, the person who discovers the coin in their piece of cake will enjoy a particularly lucky year.
United States. The most famous US New Year’s tradition (enjoyed worldwide) is the dropping of the ball in Times Square in New York City at 11:59 pm. A tradition started in 1907, today thousands watch the ball’s one-minute descent, letting out a big cheer when it arrives at its destination precisely at midnight. While the original ball was made of wood and iron, today’s ball is made of Waterford Crystal, weighs 1070 pounds and is a whopping six feet in diameter.
Brazil. And last but not least we have Brazil where the New Year is a huge party for all! There are many Brazilian New Year’s traditions including wearing white; white is believed to bring good luck for the rest of the year. Not surprisingly, the ocean is also center to the celebrations; at midnight many jump seven times on the beach and throw flowers into the sea for a happy, prosperous New Year. Some even send a boat into the sea laden with presents, flowers and scented candles in an homage to Iemanja, the Brazilian Goddess of the Sea and Mother of the Waters. And of course, there are the famous festivities in Rio where up to 3 million people gather together on Copacabana beach for the best outdoor party on the planet.
The New Year Classics…
The two most famous New Year’s traditions are its fireworks and making resolutions.
Fireworks on New Year’s Eve began in ancient times. The idea was that the fire and noise were believed to dispel spirits and bring good luck.
As for the resolutions?
It is believed that the Babylonians were the first to start the tradition of the New Year’s resolutions.
Of course, people have been breaking them ever since!
One way to make sure that your resolutions ‘stick’ is to create goals that are realistic but simultaneously will make a real improvement in your life. A good one—in terms of plant-based eating—would be to resolve to eliminate ONE type of food from your diet (e.g. dairy) or commit to eating one plant-based meal every day.
What to Eat on New Year’s Eve?
What about the food?
Here are some great plant-based food options for the New Year’s celebrations:
- Beans: One of my favorite foods, they symbolize coins and are thought to bring good financial fortune (in Brazil, we eat rice and lentils on New Year’s Eve).
- Grapes: In many Hispanic cultures, 12 grapes are eaten at the countdown to midnight. A sweet grape signifies a lucky month in the coming year; a sour grape…you get the idea.
- Greens: Thought to resemble paper money, all varieties of greens are good luck.
- Black-Eyed Peas: Although technically a bean, I mention this Southern tradition because it’s believed that black-eyed peas bring good fortune, because eating them shows humility.
- Grains: Rice, barley and quinoa symbolize abundance.
- Cornbread: A piece of cornbread signifies gold and wealth.
- Soba: Noodles are thought to symbolize long life. Eat Japanese buckwheat noodles at midnight (when they’re called toshi-koshi, meaning ‘from one year to another’) and make sure to eat the longest ones you can find to ensure longevity.
Whatever you do with your New Year’s Eve, we’re looking forward to making 2016 a great year — with you!
One of the nice traditions of New Year’s Eve when the clock strikes 12:00 (besides the midnight kiss of course!) is that everyone joins in singing “Auld Lang Syne”. This beautiful old Scottish song reminds us to remember and cherish old friendships, good deeds and toast health and good will for the year ahead.
So wherever you are at the midnight moment, we here at UC Davis raise our virtual glasses to each of you and thank you for being our friends and part of a community of people who are looking to live happier, healthier lives.
Looking forward to all the amazing moments we will share together in 2016!