Here we go again…another way to celebrate New Years on a different date, with yet more traditions that beg the question, “Why???” What’s so great about another new year when it doesn’t even fall on New Year. Unless it does…but does it?
Let’s start by making the distinction between those who celebrate the New Year with the start of the Gregorian Calendar and those who apparently have never met Greg, and are willing to celebrate willy-nilly (with no real deference to Groundskeeper Willie), on random dates that are somewhere in between other dates, yet to be determined by the sun and the moon.
Case in point. The current update which is celebrating the Chinese New Year…which follows the Lunar Calendar and is actually called Yuan Tan and can happen anytime between mid-January and mid-February. It can last up to 15 days (undoubtedly using soup as its main food group) and culminates in the exchange of money in red envelopes for good luck. Nothing says “lucky” like soup and money. But, as I am writing this, my wife has reminded me that the soup is actually Wonton, and NOT Yuan Tan, but the money part is accurate, even though the day it is celebrated every year changes. See why I’m confused?
But there’s more to this New Year’s mess….MUCH more!
We’ll have to verify this next one with our Dutch readers (I know we have a couple), but if you think the Chinese soup/money celebration is unique (I know…I already refuted the soup claim, but I am choosing to use it as an “Alternative Fact,” which as a concept is being made very popular these days), wait until you hear how the Dutch celebrate.
According to custom, the
Dutch Danish (sorry, always get those mixed up) save dishes all year long, and then throw them at the front door of their friends and neighbors. Supposedly, the more broken crockery you have on your front steps on New Year’s Day, the more loved and popular you are. But, add to this part two of their tradition, which is to jump off of a chair at midnight. Imagine the clogged hospitals if people tried this while trying to eat hot soup from the bowls before they threw them. It boggles the mind.
For every madcap fun New Year’s Eve party (insert your memory of a drunken office party here), there is a counter-balance that is not only not on the Gregorian New Year, but significantly less frantic and fun. In Sri-Lanka, they celebrate their “Aluth Avurduhu” (say that tens times fast), by cleaning the house, lighting the fire in the hearth, and herbal bathing. This happens in Mid-April, and sounds very boring, unless your name is Herb.
Another one that begs the question, “Really????” comes from Germany. According to tradition, German New Year’s is celebrated by dropping molten lead into cold water to see what shape it takes…and then prognosticating the year by what they see. “Oh look! There’s a heart…love is coming! Oh…and there’s what looks like a chunk of cheese, we will have prosperity! And look…that looks like Johan’s finger…oh…WAIT…That IS Johan’s finger! He burnt it off playing with molten lead!!!!” Sheesh. At least they celebrate it on the traditional Gregorian New Year’s…and are wise enough not to get lead poisoning by trying to make soup with the same water. Unlike Flint, Michigan…which may or may not have been settled in the 1700s by Germans (again with an alternative fact).
And after the past couple of months…and all of the Religious Hubbub that took place in the TSTO Winter Event, let’s not even start with the differences in how the major religions celebrate the New Year. The Hindus celebrate a luni-solar pattern, Islam’s calendar is only 354 days long, the Sikhs celebrate on “Chet 1” which is generally March 14th of the Gregorian calendar (Hello…my name is Greg, nice to meet you Chet!), Buddhism is another luni-solar calendar but varies from country to country, and the Jewish faith celebrates during the month of “Tishri” which could fall in late September or early October.
So…it only makes sense that Greg calls the shots for most of the world, because it is always on the same day. Greg loves his calendar…because it always starts at midnight on January 1st, which falls exactly a week after Christmas, which means that we are able to put off our “New Year’s Diet Plan” for at least a week longer than we should. Some even go so far as to celebrate right through from Christmas to Epiphany…which is in the middle of January, and traditionally marks the celebration of the three wise men following the star of Bethlehem to the Baby Jeebus…(which actually happened historically in August or June depending on which calendar they were following in Zero BC).
All of this New Year’s bit is lost on me. I was BORN on New Year’s…just after midnight…so I had to come into the world with the “angry vibe” of my father’s disgust at losing a tax deduction if I’d just been born a couple of hours sooner. But, because New Year’s and my Birthday have always been a convoluted mess, I rarely ever thought much about soup, or molten lead, or cleaning the house. The fact is, for me, the “new year” actually started with the first day of school. My Dad was a teacher, and so it always felt like the “new year” was actually just that…a New SCHOOL year. New school clothes, new school supplies, a new season of football…it was all SO MUCH better than watching the ball drop and listening to Dick Clark yammer about what a great year it is going to be.
Soup or no soup…molten lead or loads of crockery broken on one’s doorstep…nothing compares to the smell of a fresh binder of notebook paper, a box of #2 pencils, and a large box of Crayola Crayons (the 64-count size).
Wow! Reading that last paragraph make me realize how old I really am…perhaps I should celebrate that!
But in the end, when all is said and done, Greg wins. Mostly because there were so many Gregs that his influence on New Years was huge!
The original Pope Gregory (aka the First or 1) was a busy guy. He came up with the Gregorian chant (kinda monotone but apparently effective in converting Pagans to Christianity), the Gregorian Mass (which had to be created once there were so many converted Pagans who wanted something other than a monotone chant to sing), and a whole lot of other stuff (record keeping in the 500s was kind of sketchy). It wasn’t until Pope Gregory the XIII (aka Greg 13) that we finally got the full meal deal Gregorian Calendar, which was introduced in October 1582…but apparently took a couple of months to catch on, until January when the “New Year” started officially (and Ryan Seacrest’s great, great, great, great grandfather dropped a ball of lead into a bucket, creating the first New Year’s ball drop).
I’d like to celebrate this update with the purchase of all of the Chinese New Year stuff. But the fact is, there isn’t a single New Year’s tradition that calls for the exchange of donuts for a bunch of cliche Chinese New Year’s clutter, even if the junks would look swell floating just off shore from Lisa’s fish processing plant. Fish head soup anyone?
I’m passing…because it isn’t New Years. Sorry. Soup or no soup. It just isn’t.
What New Year’s customs do you have? Did you buy the Chinese junk? Do you like soup? Let us know…we LOVE to hear from you!