Festive Facts: New Year’s History

Source: History.Com Staff

What does “Auld Lang Syne” mean, and why do we sing the song at midnight on New Year’s Eve?

“Auld Lang Syne,” the title of a Scottish folk song that many English speakers sing at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, roughly translates to “days gone by.” The poet Robert Burns is credited with transcribing, adapting and partially rewriting it in the late 18th century. Its lyrics, which rhetorically ask whether “auld acquaintance” should “be forgot,” have been interpreted as a call to remember friends and experiences from the past.

Though sung on New Year’s Eve since the mid-19th century, it became firmly cemented as a holiday standard when Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians played it during a radio broadcast from New York’s Roosevelt Hotel at midnight on December 31, 1929. The band went on to perform the hit every year until 1976, and loudspeakers continue to blast their rendition after the annual ball drop in Times Square.

Who were the first to make resolutions for the new year?

People have been pledging to change their ways in the new year—whether by getting in shape, quitting a bad habit or learning a skill—for an estimated 4,000 years now. The tradition is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)

The age-old custom of breaking one’s newly formed resolutions within several months—a fate that befalls the majority of would-be reformers, according to statistics—probably originated shortly thereafter.

When was the first New Year’s Eve ball dropped in New York’s Times Square?

An estimated 1 billion people around the world watch each year as a brightly lit ball descends down a pole atop the One Times Square building at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The world-famous celebration dates back to 1904, when the New York Times newspaper relocated to what was then known as Longacre Square and convinced the city to rename the neighborhood in its honor. At the end of the year, the publication’s owner threw a raucous party with an elaborate fireworks display.

When the city banned fireworks in 1907, an electrician devised a wood-and-iron ball that weighed 700 pounds, was illuminated with 100 light bulbs and was dropped from a flagpole at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Lowered almost every year since then, the iconic orb has undergone several upgrades over the decades and now weighs in at nearly 12,000 pounds. In more recent years, various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of items ranging from pickles (Dillsburg, Pennsylvania) to possums (Tallapoosa, Georgia) at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Who made January 1 the first of the year?

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese New Year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice. In ancient Rome, the original calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox; according to tradition, it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C.

Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today. As part of his reform, Caesar established January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future.

In medieval Europe, Christian leaders replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation). Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.

What are some traditional New Year’s foods?

At New Year’s Eve parties and celebrations around the world, revelers enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes—symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead—right before midnight. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.

Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries. Ring- shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere. In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

What do Paul Revere, J. Edgar Hoover, Lorenzo de Medici, Betsy Ross and Pope Alexander VI have in common?

All of these historical figures came into the world on January 1. According to tradition, babies born on the first of the year grow up to enjoy the luckiest of lives, bringing joy and good fortune to those around them. (You can be the judge of whether these particular individuals lend support to the legend.)

The use of a baby as a personification of the new year has been traced to ancient Greece, where an infant in a basket was paraded around to mark the annual rebirth of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. Sometimes accompanied by Father Time, “Baby New Year” has appeared in banners, cartoons, posters and cards for several hundred years.

 

Honoring Kwanzaa

“We will never know ourselves if we do not know our history.” Maulana Karenga

“It takes a village to raise a child.” African Proverb

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

“It’s not what you call me, but what I answer to.” African Proverb

“I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.” Maya Angelou

“If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.” Maya Angelou

“Develop enough courage so that you can stand up for yourself and then stand up for somebody else.” Maya Angelou

“If you have a purpose in which you can believe, there’s no end to the amount of things you can accomplish.” Marian Anderson

“Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.” Nelson Mandela

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peace and Many Blessings for Kwanza

Peace and Many Blessings as The Stratford Crier celebrates Kwanzaa with our readers which begins on Saturday December 26th.

Kwanzaa is a holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 based upon the the African tradition of celebrating the harvesting of the first fruits. Kwanzaa is a time of reflecting, reassessing, recommitting and rejoicing–and giving special reverence for the creator and creation and commemorating the past.

Five common sets of values are central to the activities of the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment, and celebration. The seven principles (nguzo saba) of Kwanzaa utilize Kiswahili words: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). Each of the seven candles signify the principles. Like the Jewish Hannakah, candles are used to represent concepts of the holiday.

The symbols of Kwanzaa includes crops (mzao) which represents the historical roots of African-Americans in agriculture and also the reward for collective labor. The mat (mkeka) lays the foundation for self- actualization. The candle holder (kinara) reminds believers in the ancestral origins in one of 55 African countries. Corn/maize (muhindi) signifies children and the hope associated in the younger generation. Gifts (Zawadi) represent commitments of the parents for the children. The unity cup (Kkimbe cha Umoja) is used to pour libations to the ancestors. Finally, the seven candles (mishumaa saba) remind participants of the severl pinciples and the colors in flags of African liberation movements — 3 red, 1 black, and 3 green.

Gifts are exchanged. On 31 December participants celebrate with a banquet of food often cuisine from various African countries. Participants greet one another with “Habari gani” which is Kiswahili for “how are you/ how’s the news with you?”

This and That

Interesting Tidbits from Various Sources

The voting numbers are in from the 2020 Presidential Election.
Connecticut’s turn-out rate: 66.6%
2016: 58.2%
2020: 71.1%
Fairfield County turn-out rate:
2016: 44.5%
2020: 50.1%
Several states in the upper Midwest had remarkable turnout numbers. In Minnesota, its turnout rate was greater than 75 percent — tops in the nation — while Maine (76.3%), New Hampshire (75.5%), Colorado and Wisconsin were close behind, with turnout ranging from 72 percent to 74 percent.
Source: statista.com

On a more seasonal note:

“Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.” —Edna Ferber

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” – Bob Hope

“May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve.”

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” – Charles M. Schulz

“I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another.” — Carrie Fisher

“Peace on earth will come to stay, When we live Christmas every day.” – Helen Steiner Rice

“Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends.” – Margaret Thatcher

“Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered.” – Phyllis Diller

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day / Their old familiar carols play / And wild and sweet, the words repeat / Of peace on earth, good-will to men.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” – Harry Potter

“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” – Garrison Keillor, Leaving Home

“Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.” — The Polar Express

“I don’t want Christmas season to end, because it’s the only time I can legitimately indulge in on particular addiction: glitter.” – Eloisa James, Paris in Love

“At Christmas, all roads lead home.” – Marjorie Holmes

Source: Town & Country

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha.

Submitted by: Orna Rawls:

Thanksgiving Survey

This year, Thanksgiving celebrations may look different than in the past. With the current Coronavirus situation, public health officials are encouraging caution. While this may be challenging, there are many things to be thankful for and many traditions will hopefully continue.

We have created a survey to learn how Thanksgivings in our community may be different this year.

Click HERE to see the results

 

If you haven’t responded yet, we still want to hear from you. Tell us about your thanksgiving experience:

Mold the Future for Stratford Education: Stratford Education Fund

by Tom Dillon

What skills will be required for Stratford’s students in the years to come?  What will make them successful in their careers?  What knowledge do they need to make the greatest impact on their lives and the lives of others? The answers to those questions are the focus of a community led initiative being implemented by The Stratford Education Fund.

Bob David, a community member and one of three facilitators for the Barr Foundation, is looking for community volunteers throughout our community to participate in a structured workshop for the next several months.  Three groups composed of educators, parents and local business people that will collaborate to create an outline for programs and priorities required for students to become successful in life and the workplace.

The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. Based in Boston, they are guided by core values defined by their founders. “These values are fundamental to who we are and what we believe constitutes effective philanthropy.”

Volunteers are needed to kick the program off starting in December and will be meeting through March. The groups will share ideas and develop specific programs that will be presented to the Barr Foundation and the Stratford Board of Education by the Summer of 2021.

A few dozen communities have been selected across New England.  The Barr Foundation is not only providing the funds to conduct the initial community collaboration, but a handful of communities will be awarded a grant each year for four years in a row to implement the programs that they created.

Diversity Matters

Over 50 languages are spoken in Stratford homes and our community is made up of an incredible diversity of people.   Bob is urging every Stratford resident with an interest in the success of our youth to consider getting involved with the project to ensure that it represents our community in the broadest possible sense.  Based on current conditions with the pandemic, meetings are currently expected to be virtual and will meet numerous times per month.  There is even a small stipend available for participants.

The Stratford Education Fund is an outgrowth of the Stratford Chamber of Commerce’s oldest running program the Business and Education Support Team (BEST).  The BEST program has run for more than 30 years as a public private partnership between Stratford’s business community and the public schools.  The BEST program continues to provide “mini-grants” between 50 and 500 dollars which are put directly into teachers’ hands for small programs that go straight to Stratford’s classrooms. Every year awards are presented to teachers and students for being the “BEST” of Stratford.

The Stratford Education Fund was created to create more opportunities by going through the full process of registering as a IRS recognized 501(c)3 charitable foundation.  That long process was completed with extensive support of many community businesses, including the Milford Bank.

This is your opportunity to get involved and share your experience and perspective on the future of our students and community!  Anyone interested should reach out to Bob David at bobbydavid999@gmail.com.

The Unique Nature of Stratford’s Suffrage History

by David Wright, Editor of The Cupheag Corner

As we enter a year of remembrance celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920, a look at how women’s suffrage originated, and evolved, in Stratford seems most noteworthy. Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, has established a Connecticut Suffrage Centennial website which you may view at https://votesforwomenct.com/. Many towns are marking the centennial with special events and observances which are, or will be, posted to this website. In order to celebrate the centennial in Stratford, it’s important to recognize just how differently Stratford experienced the suffrage movement.

Unlike many other towns in the state and the nation, there is no sign of visible opposition to the suffrage movement in Stratford. There was no organized “anti” suffrage movement in town. The most prominent, powerful, politically connected, and wealthy women in Stratford all affiliated with the Stratford suffrage movement. It’s very possible, in the face of such powerful women suffrage supporters, that anti-suffrage women, if they existed, found it impossible to challenge the Stratford suffrage leaders.

Stratford’s suffrage movement also appears to have been supported by, or, at a minimum, not opposed by, the powerful men of the town. Businessmen, doctors, lawyers, political leaders, and land owners all had wives, sisters, and/or daughters active in Stratford’s suffrage movement.

Red Men’s Hall on Church Street was demolished in 1957 to make way for I-95.

Stratford’s first suffrage organizational meeting was held in Red Men’s Hall on October 16th, 1912. The Red Men’s Club (or tribe) was comprised of the most influential, powerful, and wealthy men in Stratford. The “Red Men’s” organization in America has a long history as a post-Revolutionary War successor to the original Sons of Liberty. Stratford’s Red Men’s club was founded in 1889. Red Men’s Hall was located on Church Street, behind the Congregational Church, and sat, basically, where I-95 crosses Church Street.

The first suffrage conference of Fairfield County was also held at Red Men’s Hall in June 1916. (Red Men’s Hall played a pivotal role in suffrage activities in Stratford. As a side note of interest, Red Men’s Hall became the Polka Dot Playhouse in 1954). Stratford suffrage leaders were well-known throughout the county, state, and nation which would have been one compelling reason for the Fairfield County suffrage association to conduct its first meeting in Stratford.

It seems ironic that the suffrage movement in Stratford would have been drawn to a meeting location so infused with “maleness” and, ordinarily, opposed to suffrage activities. In order for the suffragettes to feel comfortable at Red Men’s Hall, it would have required the tacit, if not implicit, support of the leading men of Stratford. The Stratford women frequently invited Stratford men to their monthly suffrage meetings as speakers and as participants.

Lastly, once women obtained the vote in 1920 in Stratford, they stood fairly united in voting to change Stratford’s form of government (in 1921) to a Manager-Council form. Without the support of the Stratford women, the vote to change government forms would have failed.

Stratford’s suffrage movement was indeed unique. Through the coming months, we’ll periodically revisit this topic by spotlighting Stratford suffrage leaders. In their stories resides the explanation as to why Stratford’s suffrage experience defied state and national trends. Once again, Stratford’s history proves to be a Connecticut standout.