New Year's Eve Fun Facts
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Get Ready For 2013!1 of 19
By Julie Fishman
Ever wonder what "Auld Lang Syne" actually means or which part of the world rings in the New Year first? Before you count down to midnight, flip through these conversation-starters to find out the meaning behind various New Year's Eve traditions and how people party around the globe.
Back In The Day2 of 19
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.
Four Rockin' Decades3 of 19
In the first "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" without the legend himself, ABC will honor the American icon with a tribute by celebrating his life (1929-2012). Performers include Neon Trees and Carly Rae Jepsen in New York, and Flo Rida, Justin Bieber, Ellie Goulding and Jason Aldean in Los Angeles, with Ryan Seacrest as the show's new host. What started with a couple of cameras and skeleton crew in 1972 has grown to become the most-watched New Year's Eve broadcast in the world.
Having A Ball4 of 19
When fireworks were banned in 1907—just three years after the first New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square—officials lowered a ball from a flagpole to signal the end of one year and the start of another. In 1907, the New Year's orb was composed of iron and wood and weighed 700 pounds. Today's ball contains 32,256 LED lights and 2,668 crystals, tipping the scale at 11,875 pounds. This year, the Waterford crystal ball will have 288 new crystal panels to replace the old ones, with doves chiseled into them to mark the theme "Let There Be Peace."
Musical Showdown5 of 19
While an estimated 1 billion people worldwide watch the Times Square ball drop, thousands of others tune in to the widely popular Japanese show Kohaku Uta Gassen. The show features two teams of celebrity musicians that compete in a series of sing-offs. While most of the artists are Japanese stars, past American participants include Paul Simon and Cyndi Lauper.
Baby Love6 of 19
In the film New Year's Eve, two women compete to have the first baby born in the New Year in order to win a $25,000 prize offered by the hospital. While gifts given in real life are far more modest, most hospitals in the U.S. do reward the first baby born on New Year's Day with diapers, blankets, clothing or gift certificates donated by local businesses. Whether they win the prize or not, any baby born on Jan. 1 is considered lucky, a distinction enjoyed by author J.D. Salinger (left) and American flag designer Betsy Ross.
Sing A Song7 of 19
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.
Pucker Up8 of 19
The tradition to smooch at midnight isn't a recent invention. According to old English and German folklore, the first person you come across in the new year could set the tone for the next 12 months. The superstition doesn't just apply to singles—if a couple ringing in the new year together doesn't lock lips, then the future of their relationship might not be all that bright. So be sure to plant one on your significant other when the ball drops!
Poppin' Bottles9 of 19
The New Year's drink of choice is arguably Champagne, and over 300 million bottles of it are produced annually from the strictly defined Champagne region, located 90 miles northeast of Paris. While wine has been produced in Champagne for 2,000 years, the bubbly stuff can be traced back to the 17th century, when the cork, which captured fermentation gases, was developed. Despite popular belief, Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon did not invent Champagne. However, the legendary cleric did make several crucial contributions to the drink's development and production.
Celebrity Sightings10 of 19
If you're looking to rub elbows with the rich and famous, New York, Las Vegas and Miami Beach are the celebrity hot spots. In Times Square, The Standard Hotel and The Lion tend to attract A-list clientele in NYC. Kim Kardashian will be hosting at The Mirage, while Pitbull will be rocking out down the street at The Palms. Nicki Minaj is a hot ticket at Caesars Palace and international house DJ Benny Benassi will be spinning tunes at The Cosmopolitan long into the morning.
Piece Of Cake11 of 19
The holiday season is known for its sweets, and New Year's is no exception. It's a custom in some countries, like Mexico and Greece, to hide a prize inside of a New Year's cake—whoever finds it in their slice is guaranteed good luck in the year ahead. In Sweden and Norway, people take part in a similar tradition in which an almond is hidden in rice pudding. Honey-drenched treats are popular in Italy, to evoke a "sweet" new year, while ring-shaped donuts (to represent coming full circle) are customary in Poland and Hungary.
Isn't It Grape?12 of 19
Another food-related custom is a bit more nutritious: 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. (The custom stuck and then spread to Portugal, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.) 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.
About The Benjamins13 of 19
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. Legumes are also consumed with financial fortune in mind, as beans, peas and lentils look like coins and swell when cooked. In Brazil, for example, the first meal of the New Year is often lentil soup or lentils and rice.
Playing With Fire14 of 19
Thousands of spectators gather in Stonehaven, Scotland each New Year's Eve to watch the village's men swing blazing fireballs over their heads as they parade the streets. The ancient event is thought to encourage a pure and sun-filled year.
Do The Polka15 of 19
In Mexico and South American countries including Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, it's customary to ring in the New Year by sporting special underpants: red if you're looking for love and yellow if you're after money. In the Philippines, people believe that wearing polka dots—on their underwear or elsewhere—ensures a promising year ahead.
Domino Effect16 of 19
The first spot to celebrate the start of 2012 will be Kiritimati on Christmas Island, ringing in the New Year at 5AM EST on Dec. 31. Sydney, Tokyo and London—in that order—will all pop their bubbly before the Times Square ball and 2,000 pounds of confetti drop in New York. When Pago Pago in American Samoa welcomes the New Year at 6AM EST on Jan. 1, the entire world will have officially entered 2012.
East Meets West17 of 19
Not everyone celebrates New Year's on January 1. Chinese New Year, for example, begins on the first day of the lunar calendar, which usually falls in either late January or early February. During this time, it is customary for each family to thoroughly cleanse the house in an effort to sweep away ill fortune, to eat Chinese delicacies such as "nian gao," or sticky rice, and to end the night with firecrackers. Red paper envelopes full of money are also distributed to the children at this time—one of the more popular traditions.
But You Promised18 of 19
Are you surprised to find out that the most common New Year's resolution is losing weight? Other popular resolutions include exercising more, quitting smoking, saving money, and getting a better job or education. While the hope of keeping resolutions is great for business—we spent $62 billion on gym memberships, diet soda and the like, last year—by March, the lines at the treadmills start to thin, and the next year, we're at it again.
New Beginnings19 of 19
Some people believe that breaking anything on New Year's Day foreshadows a year of other broken things, like friendships and marriages. Many cultures also make sure to not serve any form of fowl on that day because it means the family will have to "scratch out" a living for the rest of the year. Instead, to ensure a year of good luck, firecrackers and noisemakers became tradition in order to scare away any remaining evil spirits and to ensure a brand new start.
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