Did You Know...

from the January 5, 2014  Society Page

*~ The first recorded New Year's celebration dates back 4,000 years to Babylon, when the first moon after the spring equinox marked a new year. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar created a calendar with Jan. 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor Janus, the month's namesake and god of beginnings. 

 *~ Though you may not know the exact words to "Auld Lang Syne," you've probably at least hummed the tune at past New Year's parties. Touched by the lyrics he allegedly received from "an old man," poet Robert Burns sent "Auld Lang Syne" to Scottish Musical Museum in 1778. Translated as "Times Gone By," the song's message is that, despite the pain in doing so, we must remember and toast to those we've loved and lost in order to keep them close to our hearts. 

 *~ Celebrants in Spain eat 12 grapes at midnight to ensure a fruitful year ahead, a tradition that began as a solution to a grape surplus in 1909. Each grape corresponds with a single month in the upcoming year: a sour second grape, for example, might foretell a bumpy February. The goal for most grape eaters is to swallow all 12 before the stroke of midnight. 

 *~ The first New Year’s Eve ball was dropped in Times Square in 1907. In response to a ban on fireworks implemented that year, an electrician built the ball as an alternative way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. He constructed a wood and iron ball that weighed 700 pounds and featured 100 light bulbs. The luminous orb was dropped from a flagpole at midnight on New Year’s Eve. 

 *~ The first spot to celebrate the start of 2014 will be Kiritimati on Christmas Island, ringing in the New Year at 5AM EST on Dec. 31. When Pago Pago in American Samoa welcomes the New Year at 6AM EST on Jan. 1, the entire world will have officially entered 2014.

*~ Cabbage, collards, kale and chard are eaten on New Year's Eve in much of the American South. Since green leaves look like money, the tradition holds that the more greens a person eats, the more economic success he or she will experience in the year to come.