New Year's Day

The first New Year’s celebration dates back 4,000 years. Julius Caesar, the emperor of Rome, was the first to declare January 1st a national holiday. He named the month after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. Janus had two faces, one looking forward and one looking back.

 

The New Year's Eve Ball made its maiden descent from the flagpole atop One Times Square in 1907. 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. Today, it is covered in 2,688 crystals, is lit by 32,000 LED lights, weighs 11,875 pounds and is 12 feet in diameter. About 1 million people gather in New York City’s Times Square to watch the iconic ball drop.

Forty-five percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The top resolutions are: to lose weight, get organized, to spend less and save more, to stay fit and healthy, and to quit smoking. While nearly half of all Americans make resolutions, 25 percent of them give up on their resolutions by the second week of January.

Baby 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 that occurs at the start of each new year.

Americans drink around 360 million glasses of sparkling wine on New Year's.

Corks can fly out of the bottle at a speed of 25 miles per hour, so it's best to open bottles at a 45-degree angle (away from yourself and others).

 

On January 1, 1801, the first public Presidential New Year's Reception was held in the President's House, and a democratic social custom began. As Chief Occupant in the new President’s House in Washington, President Adams believed it was the “people’s” house, and it was incumbent upon him, its first resident, to extend hospitality. Thus, on New Year’s Day, 1801, the doors were open to any and all persons in Washington who wished to come by, shake his hand and exchange greetings.

The annual New Year’s Day reception in 1863 is arguably the most important event in the Reception’s history. Abraham Lincoln was President, and the Civil War was raging. At 11a.m., as customary, the Blue Room reception began, for high ranking public officials and invited guests. A half hour later, the White House doors were opened to the public, and for the next three hours, the President duly shook hands with any and all who had waited in line. At three p.m. the public New Year’s Day reception ended, and the President moved to a different room to sign his carefully written full name to the Emancipation Proclamation.

As time went on, the New Year’s Day Receptions became cumbersome and onerous for the President. Some, like Theodore Roosevelt, who was naturally gregarious, perfected a handshake that firmly pushed the visitor along, while controlling the strength of the handshake itself. By 1900, the population of Washington DC was over 279,000, not counting visitors. By the twentieth century, the estimate was more than 9,000 attendees and was becoming annoying for the president, who complained of a sore arm and hand. President Herbert Hoover held the last New Year's Day reception in 1932.