50 Fun New Year's Facts
New Year’s celebrations are filled with traditions — from the kiss at midnight to the champagne toast to the making of resolutions. But have you heard about the town that drops a Moon Pie at midnight or the country where residents smash plates for good luck? Check out these New Year’s fun facts and ideas to start some new traditions as you ring in 2022.
New Year’s History and More
New Year’s celebrations are not a new thing. Many of the traditions we celebrate started long ago. See some of these interesting facts about New Year’s.
- The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.
- Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish folk song made famous in America by Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo in the late 1920s.
- Champagne production skyrocketed from 300,000 to 20 million bottles per year between 1800 and 1850, as the world started ordering more for ship christenings and New Year’s celebrations.
- Kissing someone at midnight is said to come from the idea that doing so will prevent loneliness during the coming year and ward off evil spirits.
- Ancient Romans are credited with the kissing tradition because of their Saturnalia festival. It was a celebration honoring Saturn, the god of time.
- The island nation Kiribati in the Central Pacific is the first location to ring in the new year each year.
- American Samoa is the second to last place to celebrate the new year behind Baker and Howland Islands, which are both uninhabited.
- If you’ve ever spent December 31st at home on your couch, you’ve probably seen New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, the show Dick Clark hosted for twenty-four years until suffering a stroke. He often co-hosted in later years with Ryan Seacrest until he died in 2012. Seacrest continues to host the show.
- The most common resolution people make is to get healthier.
- Each year, it is estimated that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.
- Celebrating the first baby of the New Year has been a symbol of the holiday since around 600 B.C., starting in ancient Greece when an infant was paraded around in a basket in celebration of Dionysus, the god of fertility (and wine). The baby represents a rebirth.
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The Iconic Ball Drop
Everyone knows about the ball dropping each year in New York to count down to the new year. But, did you know some of these interesting facts about ball drop?
- Times Square first hosted a New Year’s Eve celebration in 1904 with a giant fireworks show but when city leaders banned fireworks a few years later, the ball drop tradition was born in 1907.
- The idea of a ball "dropping" to signal the passage of time dates back to 1833 when a ball was installed on top of England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set a vital navigation instrument.
- The current ball is a 12-foot sphere that weighs 11,875 pounds and is covered with 2,688 Waterford Crystals
- The ball is illuminated by 32,256 LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and can display a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors and billions of patterns that create a spectacular kaleidoscope effect.
- This is the seventh version of the ball. The first New Year's Eve Ball, made of iron and wood and adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet in diameter and weighed 700 pounds.
- In 1920, a 400-pound ball made of wrought iron replaced the original. In 1955, that was replaced with an aluminum ball that weighed just 150 pounds. It stayed the same until the 1980s, when red light bulbs and the addition of a green stem turned the ball into an apple for the "I Love New York" marketing campaign. After seven years, the traditional glowing white ball returned.
- The ball has been lowered every year since 1907, with the exceptions of 1942 and 1943, when the ceremony was suspended due to the wartime "dimout" of lights in New York City.
- Typically, a million people crowd into Times Square to watch the ball drop.
Celebrations Around the United States
Not everyone celebrates a ball drop around the United States. Check out some of the other events and celebrations that take place each year.
- In Miami, there’s an orange that rises rather than a ball that drops. The 35-foot neon-lit Big Orange rises up on the side on the InterContinental Hotel, and fireworks launch when it reaches the top.
- Since 2010, residents of Eastover, North Carolina have gathered at the community building on New Year’s Eve to watch a three-foot-tall, 30-pound ceramic flea made of foam, wood and wire drop. The town manager created it to honor the town once being known as flea hill because of a flea infestation.
- At the historic Hershey Press Building in Pennsylvania, a 300-pound, seven-foot-tall Hershey’s Kiss is raised three stories.
- The New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop started in 1999 with a handful of Mt. Olive Pickle employees and now draws several thousand to the North Carolina town every year. The glowing, three-and-a-half-foot pickle drops from the Mount Olive Volunteer Fire Department’s tower truck.
- Skiers form a glowing train and ski down Golden Peak in Vail, Colorado with a fireworks show following the annual Torchlight parade.
- In Mobile, Alabama a 12-foot, 600-pound electric Moon Pie drops at midnight (even though the sweet treat is made in Tennessee).
- Nashville gets in on the new year fun by dropping a musical note in Music City and of course accompanying the drop is a big public concert.
- The famous Folly Beach Flip Flop Drop brings a little sparkle to the beach town with a giant pair of glittery flip-flops that drop at midnight.
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There are so many food traditions that people eat on New Year’s Day, each region and country having some of their own unique traditions.
- Eating black-eyed peas is a southern tradition said to bring economic prosperity in the coming year.
- Find a way to include a round food (think donuts, bagels…) into your New Year's meal. The shape symbolizes that the year has come full circle.
- In Spain, the tradition is to eat 12 grapes to bring you good luck. Eat one for each month.
- Lobster and chicken are both considered bad luck foods. According to superstition, it’s because of a lobster's ability to move backward and a chicken's ability to scratch itself backward.
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Around the World
You know there are some unique and fun ways that people around the world celebrate the new year. Check out some of these fun traditions. Who knows, you might decide to make some of these fun traditions your own.
- In Denmark, the Danes throw unused plates that have been saved up throughout the year at the front doors of family and friends for good luck.
- Also in Denmark, Danes stand on chairs just before midnight. An old tradition says they jump into the new year as the clock strikes 12
- In some Latin American countries, people carefully pick the underwear they wear for the holiday. Yellow enhances your chances for abundance and money. Red means you’ll likely find love. And if you were sporting white underpants, preferably new and clean, then peace was your top priority for the coming year.
- To get into the Sea Goddess's good graces, Brazilians jump over the waves seven times.
- In Canada, they do the polar bear plunge to ring in the new year. Fireworks are also set off because it is thought that noise and lights will scare away any evil spirits for the coming months.
- Russians make their wish, write it on a piece of paper and burn the paper. Then, they put the ashes into a glass of champagne and drink it. Cheers!
- In the Philippines, roundness is thought to signify prosperity, so on New Year's Eve locals surround themselves with round shapes, by wearing polka dots, filling their pockets with coins, or by eating circular fruits.
- In Turkey, it's considered good luck to sprinkle salt on your doorstep as soon as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Day. Like many other New Year's Eve traditions around the globe, this one is said to promote both peace and prosperity throughout the new year.
- In Ireland, it's customary for single gals to sleep with a mistletoe under their pillow on New Year's Eve. Supposedly, sleeping with the plant helps women to find their future husbands—in their dreams, at least.
- In Colombia, people take empty suitcases and run around the block as fast as they can. It's supposed to guarantee a year filled with travel.
- It's a common superstition that opening the doors and windows will let the old year out, and the new year in unimpeded.
- New Year’s Eve in Greenland is a unique experience. Not just because of the beautiful fireworks lighting up the polar night, but also because you get to celebrate the New Year twice: At 8:00 PM for Denmark (and other CET countries) and at midnight for Greenland!
- In Hawaii, they celebrate with popping firecrackers (to ward off evil spirits), eating noodles (which symbolize longevity), cleaning (so you don't carry your old life into the new year) and, for some local families, pounding mochi.
- In Switzerland, people believe good luck comes from letting a drop of cream land on the floor New Year's Day. This was said to bring a year of overflowing abundance.
- In Bolivia, coins are baked into sweets and whoever finds the coins has good luck for the next year.
- The French like to keep things simple and delicious. Every new year they consume a stack of pancakes.
- In Chile, families spend the night in the company of their deceased loved ones by sleeping at the cemetery.
- In Scotland and Greece, they believe the first person who enters your home in the new year will either bring good or bad luck. Make sure you’re careful about who it is and that they walk in using their right foot.
- The Chinese New Year is a festival that lasts fifteen days and starts on a different date every year, following the phases of the moon. It begins with the new moon that usually occurs between the end of January and the middle of February.
However you celebrate the arrival of a coming year, we wish you a happy, healthy new year for you and yours.
Michelle Boudin is an investigative reporter for WCNC TV and a freelance writer.