Babies, Babylonians and Black- eyed Peas

What are you doing, New Years, New Year’s Eve?

So go the song lyrics. Which got me to wondering about how  New Year’s and our year-end traditions began.  Some say that marking the turning of the old year to the new began 4,000 years ago when the Babylonians mounted an eleven-day celebration beginning with the first new moon after the spring equinox. In an agrarian society, it made sense to celebrate the coming of milder weather for planting.  Then, in 153 BC, the Roman senate declared January 1st to be the first day of the new year, ushering in the Julian calendar.

Using a baby as a symbol for a new year is said to have begun in Greece around 600BC, to mark the rebirth of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. The symbol we most often see today, that of a baby wearing a banner dates from the 14th century and was brought to America by German immigrants.

I’m not sure where the tradition of eating black eyed peas to ensure good luck in the new year began. Our family has observed the tradition all my life. Along with eating cabbage for prosperity ( because it’s green).  I don’t like cabbage. I’m hoping green beans will serve just as well. One of the stories I grew up hearing was that it was good luck if the first person you see in the new year is a tall dark -haired man. I’m keeping my eyes peeled this weekend for our local UPS man who fits that description perfectly. I only hope he’s not delivering a court summons.

Auld Lang Syne, which literally translates to “old long ago” was first published in 1796 and is attributed in part to the Scottish poet Robert Burns. We sing it as we think about our resolutions for the new year. It’s said that the ancient Babylonians’ number one resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.  For the coming year I’m resolving to do more for others, to work hard on my writing, and to spend more time with my family. A delicate balance.

Do you  have special  New Year’s traditions in your house? Do you make resolutions?  How do you keep on track all year long?