Our New Year’s Customs

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Ways of celebrating the new year differ according to customs and religions of the world. People in Muslim societies, for example, celebrate the new year by wearing new clothes. Southeast Asians release birds and turtles to assure themselves good luck in the 12 months ahead. Jewish people consider the day holy, and hold a religious ceremony at a meal with special foods. Hindus of India leave shrines next to their beds, so they can see beautiful objects at the start of the new year. Japanese prepare rice cakes at a social event the week before the new year.

Whatever the custom, most people feel the same sentiment. With a new year, we can expect a new life. We wish each other good luck and promise ourselves to do better in the following year.

The beginning of the new year has been welcomed on different dates throughout history. Great Britain and its colonies in America adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, in which Jan. 1 was restored as New Year’s Day.

On this first day of the year, Americans celebrate by visiting friends, relatives and neighbors with plenty to eat and drink. Many families and friends enjoy the Tournament of Roses parade on television, followed by the Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena California.

The parade was started in 1887, when a zoologist who had seen one in France, suggested to the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena, Calif., that they sponsor “an artistic celebration of the ripening of the oranges” at the beginning of the year. At first, the parade was a line of decorated horse-drawn private carriages. Athletic events were held in the afternoon, and in the evening, a ball where winners of the events of the day and the most beautiful float were announced.

In later years, colleges began to compete in football games on New Year’s Day, and these gradually replaced other athletic competitions. The parade of floats grew longer from year to year, and flower decorations grew more elaborate.

The theme of the Tournament of Roses varies from year to year. Today the parade is usually more than five miles long with thousands of participants in the marching bands and on the floats. City officials ride in the cars pulling the floats. A celebrity is chosen to be the grand marshal, or official master of ceremonies. The queen of the tournament rides on a special float that is always the most elaborate one of the parade, being made from more than 250,000 flowers. Spectators and participants alike enjoy the pageantry associated with the occasion. Preparation for next year’s Tournament of Roses begins on Jan. 2.

We must not forget to mention the other football games around the country whose names are characteristic of the state: the Orange Bowl game in Florida, the Cotton Bowl in Texas, and the Sugar Bowl in Louisiana.

Then, there’s that other prevalent custom in most cultures where people promise to better themselves in the following year. Americans have inherited this tradition and some even write down their New Year’s resolutions. Whatever the resolutions, most of them are broken or forgotten by February, which should serve to give us hope and help us try harder for next year.

I wish us all the resolution to stick with our resolutions!

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