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Every year at midnight, we raise a toast to the end of one year and the beginning of another. But who on the planet will be the first to enter 2024?
2023 draws to a close on the 31 December, and this day marks a special time. Indeed, people across the globe will be inclined to make New Year's resolutions, symbolising not just the celebration of a new beginning but also a reflection on the year gone by.
For the occasion, let's cast our gaze back over the past few months and everything that has happened - COVID-19 and its lingering impact, the tragic toll of recent conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, and, on a lighter note, Luxembourg's noteworthy return to the Eurovision Song Contest!
But wait, did you know that New Year’s Eve is also called Saint Sylvester's Day in many places around the world - Luxembourg included!
St. Sylvester, patron saint of New Year's Eve
The name Sylvester finds its origin in a saint. 31 December is, in fact, dedicated to the memory of Pope Sylvester I, the Bishop of Rome, who passed away on this very day in the year 335 AD.
According to a legend, this Christian Pope was said to have been persecuted by many, including by emperor Constantine. However, Constantine was afflicted with leprosy and was miraculously healed by St. Sylvester with the help of God. As a result, he converted to Christianity, marking the end of a time of persecution for many Christians. Today, St. Sylvester is regarded as the patron saint of all house pets and is linked with bringing in a good, new year.
Why does New Year's Eve fall on 31 December?
At first glance, the answer might seem simple: this date marks the end of the year, and 1 January the start of a new one. Yet, not everyone on the planet celebrates the end of the year on the same day.
China, for example, celebrates Chinese New Year on a date that falls between 21 January and 21 February; this date is based on the lunar calendar.
In our modern calendar, 1 January was established as New Year's Day during the Middle Ages, more specifically in 1582, when the Gregorian calendar was first introduced.
Celebrating New Year's Eve twice in one year
If you have the budget for it, you could celebrate New Year’s Eve twice! Just fly back in time. This might sound impossible but interestingly, it takes 26 hours for all countries to enter the new year.
In 2018, with a budget of 200,000 euros, you could arrange a 12 hour private flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Thanks to the 19-hour time difference between the two cities, passengers could witness the New Year’s Fireworks on both continents.
Fun fact: Samoa enters the new year already at 11 am our time, making it the first region in the world to do so. On the other hand, the Baker and Howland Islands, part of the USA, are the last places to welcome the new year on 1 January at 1 pm our time. These two islands are approximately 1,600 kilometers apart.
© Google Maps
"Gudde Rutsch" - Might originate from a Yiddish saying...
Whether it's slippery outside or not, on New Year's Eve one wishes a "gudde Rutsch", its English counterparty being "good slide". This has nothing to do with planting your face on the ice outside, though!
The saying might originate from Yiddish, the language of Eastern European Jews. In their language, New Year's Day is called "Rosch ha-Schana". "Rosch" means "head" and "ha-Schana" translates to "year".
The Jewish greeting "Gut Rosch" therefore means nothing other than "good beginning" or "good start". People who did not understand the language eventually turned "Rotsch" into "Rutsch" and that's how we might have gotten our all beloved " Gudde Rutsch!".
From Estonia to Japan: This is how New Year's is celebrated around the World
Traditionally, we celebrate New Year's Eve with fireworks, lucky charms, molybdancy (a technique of divination using molten lead and pouring it into water), a glass of champagne, or watching "Dinner for One". But how do traditions differ in other parts of the world?
In Estonia, it is customary to throw a glass of water into the street. This gesture is meant to symbolize all the tears that one will not have to cry in the coming year.
In Spain, people eat 12 grapes at midnight and make a wish. But be careful: anyone who does not eat all of them will have bad luck in the new year.
In addition to Spain, in Italy and France, there is a belief that red underwear brings luck in love life. However, the woman who wears them must receive them as a gift from a man and can only wear them on New Year's Eve. Afterwards, they must be thrown away.
In Russia, on the other hand, people drink a glass of champagne with a spritz of... ashes! Here, one writes a wish on a piece of paper, burns it, and puts the ashes in their glass. If it is drunk by midnight, the wish is supposed to come true. Since Russians live according to the Julian calendar, New Year's Eve is celebrated here from 12 to 13 January.
In Japan, luck in the new year also depends on food. The more rice flour cake the Japanese eat, the longer and happier their lives are supposed to be. Not a very healthy tradition, though, apparently people have even died from overeating the cakes.