What you think you know about New Year's: that it's a night doomed to high-expectations. What you don't know about New Year's: all kinds of cool stuff that might actually lead you to believe that this night can actually be pretty ok! Just check this list of bizarre-to-enlightening New Year's facts and you'll come away with a new appreciation for the last and first days of the year.
Molybdomancy: Micha L. Rieser/<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molybdomancy#mediaviewer/File:Bleigiessen-Vorgang.jpg" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Wikimedia</a>
1. The Finns do it the weirdest
In Finland, each new year family and friends gather to burn metal in a pan for a ritual called "molybdomancy". The Finns inspect the shadows the metal casts by candlelight, as those shapes are supposed to predict the future. Although, this metal is customarily called “tin,” it’s actually sometimes lead, which, among other things, is known to spark severe mental illness... that might explain why this ritual has persisted for hundreds of years. And while that's all pretty well and weird, the Finns aren't alone: Ecuadorians burn paper-filled scarecrows, the Swiss drop ice cream on the floor, and people in Siberia plunge into frozen lakes while carrying a tree trunk -- all to ring in the new year.
2. The 8th most common New Year's resolution is to improve a relationship
Only around 40% of us will even make a resolution. While nearly all of those vows err on the side of improvement (e.g. start exercising, improve your finances, quit smoking), the 8th most common resolution is to get along better with someone else, according to a 2012 Harris poll. So what’s the number one New Year’s resolution? Weight loss (duh).
3. We celebrate on Jan. 1 because Julius Caesar said so
Why does the New Year begin on January 1st? Because our contemporary (Gregorian) calendar is based on the Julian one (named after none other than the Big Ceas) and he made January month numero uno (which is latin for "number one" btw).
4. But New Year's used to be on March 20th
The first indication of a new year’s celebrations crop up around 2000 BC in the Middle East. Or, as its known in 9th grade history class, “Mesopotamia". At that time (2000 BC, not 9th grade), each year began on March 20th, AKA the vernal (or Spring) equinox. That's the one where the sun crosses directly over the equator. Nowadays, celebrating New Year’s is illegal in much of the same region (e.g. Saudi Arabia). Fertile crescent? More like festive crescent!
5. January is named after a god with two faces
We have ancient Rome to thank for our year beginning in January. The Roman god the month is named after, Janus, was described as having two faces. That's not a catty put-down either. We mean he literally had double the mug. When depicted in ancient Roman art, one of Janus' faces looks forward, while the other looks back. You know, like how you do on New Year's. Mad metaphorical.
6. Southerners eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck
Thought to have been derived from a Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) custom, Americans in the South annually gobble black-eyed peas. Most Southerners (and many historians) maintain the tradition began to take hold stateside when the first Shepari Jews moved to Georgia in the 1730s. By the end of the Civil War, the Rosh Hashanah tradition had evolved into a widespread practice in the South, enjoyed by both Jews and gentiles.
7. The ball drop is over 100 years old
Before Times Square was the home of M&Ms, naked cowboys, and hard-haggling middle-aged men in Elmo costumes, it was a classy little bit of town, called One Times Square. Its first New Year’s ball dropping took place December 31, 1907. Since then, it’s tumbled down every year (save for a couple during World War II). Over a million people flock to watch every December.
Blend Images / Alamy
8. The New Year's kiss has been around since the Middle Ages
Historians reckon that the New Year’s kiss is derived from either German and English folklore (it was a tradition in both). Both customs contended this: the first person you encounter in a new year will set that year’s tone. So, if the person you encounter likes you enough to make out with you, things are looking pretty good. Or maybe you're just looking pretty good.
9. The only other people who still sing "Auld Lang Syne" are Boy Scouts
The lyrics of Auld Lang Syne (which we can't abbreviate because ice buckets) are from a 1788 poem by an old Scot called Robert Burns. Well, Burns attributed the lyrics to unwritten remarks by an unnamed old man. But a few graphs of it very closely (near verbatim) resemble a poem called "Old Long Syne" written in 1711 by a man called James Watson. It's assumed Burns at least wrote the rest of it. Things like: Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold, that loving Breast on thine. Catchy. Apparently, the Boy Scouts of America sing it at the end of their jamborees. Now you want a "Things you didn't know about Boy Scouts", right!?
About 22% of Americans cop to passing out before the clock strikes 12. Unless you’re Cinderella and you gotta buck before your whip turns pumpkin, then there's no excuse. Being conscious to recognize midnight is the whole reason there was even a party, man. That and eating all the pigs in a blanket.