What New Year’s Eve traditions do you practice to ring in the new year? — Photo courtesy of martin-dm / E+ Via Getty Images

The dawn of a new year inspires hope going forward, a clean slate, a new piece to fit into the puzzle of life. Yet, mystery shrouds this holiday more well-known for the anticipation than the actual event, which many view as anti-climactic. History tells us that the first New Year’s festival dates back to Mesopotamia in 2000 B.C.E.

Here are six more fun facts about ringing in the new year.

What country is first to see the new year?

For those aforementioned New Year’s Eve-hoppers and time travelers, let’s plot out exactly how you could conceivably follow the party around the world — or at least where you would be among the first to greet the new year.

Remembering how everyone was flying to Australia to welcome in the new millennium in 1999-2000, I naturally and wrongly assumed it was the first calendar page-turner. I wasn’t far off geographically, but in terms of sheer land mass, I could not have been further afield.

Kiss your sweetie on New Year's Eve to bring your relationship good luckKiss your sweetie on New Year’s Eve to bring your relationship good luck — Photo courtesy of svetikd / E+ Via Getty Images

The first country to see the new year is a tiny oceanic country called Kiribati. A Pacific atoll made up of 10 islands, it comprises only 313 square miles and fewer than 129,000 people.

Australia actually celebrates three hours later. From there, continue westward to finish off your 24-hour global fireworks in North America, Central America, French Polynesia, and the Cook Islands.

What is the last country to see the new year?

The last stop on the New Year’s Eve countdown tour ironically lies only 1,400-some miles from Kiribati. Coming full circle, you will land lastly on the inhabited islands of Niue and American Samoa and the uninhabited U.S. territories Baker Island and Howland Island.

Why do we drop a ball on New Year’s Eve?

This tradition began in New York City, when Americans rang in 1908 in Times Square. The spectacle of dropping a 700-pound ball made of iron, wood, and 216 electric lamps via an elaborate pulley system at midnight was a resounding hit, attracting hundreds of thousands of people.

Over the years, this NYC tradition has spread across the country and evolved into some of the most hilarious and best New Year’s ball drops one can imagine.

What food is good luck on New Year’s Day?

What food to eat on New Year’s Day to bring good luck depends on where you’re pulling your chair up to the table. In Kiribati, you’ll likely feast on seafood, breadfruit, and coconut.

Growing up in a midwestern German town, our family ate sauerkraut and pork hocks. Now living in the South with my Virginia-born husband, we go with the black-eyed peas tradition. Any food that symbolizes prosperity makes the cut. For Southerners, that’s also greens, symbolizing the color of money. Pork also appears in the auld lang syne lexicon of many cultures.

To symbolize coming full circle, many people eat circular sweets, like bundt cake and donuts, for breakfast on New Year’s Day. Seafaring cultures, like Kiribati, turn to fish. In Scandinavian and other European countries, herring reigns supreme as a New Year’s dish — its scales imagined as silver coins portending good fortune. Lentils, too, represent coinage for some.

Soba noodles — the longer, the better — symbolize longevity for many New Year’s revelers. Eat them twirled, not broken. And don’t forget the obvious for dessert: fortune cookies!

Is it New Years or New Year’s?

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are correct. The logic? An apostrophe before the “s” makes a noun possessive. Without an apostrophe, the noun is plural. We’re talking about only one new year, so plural only applies to those who possibly celebrate the ringing in of the new year in multiple places by crossing timelines. So, in this case, the eve and day belong to new year, so get possessive about it!

Why do we kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?

Like the food we choose to eat for luck on New Year’s Day, I find the reasoning for kissing at midnight falls into “because we want to” category. The “why not?” line of logic. COVID may have changed the “kiss everybody” mentality of New Year’s Eve parties past, but the midnight tradition is based more in the kiss-the-one-you love, said to have been inspired by English and German folklore.

Kissing your loved one was believed to seal the relationship. Kissing the one you’re with, as Stephen Stills might recommend, will dictate the turn of your luck for the year to come — so choose wisely.

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