Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: New Year Traditions

Happy New Year! That greeting will be said and heard for at least the first couple of weeks of 2013 as a new year gets under way. But the day celebrated as New Year's Day in modern America was not always January 1.

In Nigeria, everyone cherishes the special moment, and raises a hope to be more optimistic and better human beings in the coming time. Also, vows are taken by everyone to forget rivalries, turn foes into friends, and give a new buoyant start to life. Also, it is also the time when people irrespective of faith or tribe, offer prayers to the supreme Lord, to confer them with peace, prosperity, and growth in the coming year. This is followed by exchange of wishes.

The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon. The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the New Year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian calendar. It again established January 1 as the New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.

Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to re-evaluate its position. The Church finally allowed its members to celebrate the New Year with a baby, which was to symbolise the birth of the baby Jesus.

Most American's are familiar with the kiss at midnight on New Year. The purpose of kissing a loved one at midnight is to bring good luck to the relationship for the next year. If you do not kiss the one you love at midnight, superstition says your upcoming year will lack affection.

Prosperity, or inviting prosperity, is a major theme around New Year's. Pork is a lucky food for New Year Day because pigs root forward when they eat. As a corollary, eating poultry on New Year's Day sentences the diner to poverty, because they will have to scratch in the dirt like chicken for money all year. Southerners believe eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day brings fortune, while others believe lentil soup is lucky. You should stock your pantry before the New Year, to invite continued prosperity, and do not carry any debt forward into the New Year.

Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. It was particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

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