New Year’s Eve / Watch Night: Ring in 2015 with a world of traditions

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31: Champagne toasts, fireworks and rounds of “Auld Lang Syne” ring in the New Year across the globe, welcoming 2015. From the celebrities performing in New York at Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest, to families celebrating in their homes, all of us at ReadTheSpirit wish you a Happy 2015!


In several world countries, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bring gatherings of family and friends for elaborate meals, fireworks, drinks and parties. Many countries have also handed down traditions through the generations, such as a Mexican custom of eating one grape with each chime of the clock’s bell at midnight. With each grape, a wish is made. Homes in Mexico are decked out in representative colors, all with hopes for a better New Year: red for better luck in life and love, yellow for work, and green for wealth. Sweetbread is baked with a charm inside, and when the bread is served, the recipient of the charm in his slice is believed to be especially blessed for the New Year.

Since 1907, the famous New York City “ball drop” has marked New Year’s Eve and attracted crowds of spectators to the home of the 12-foot wide, nearly 12,000-pound Waterford crystal ball. Notable televised events began in 1956, with Guy Lombardo and his band broadcasting from the ballroom of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. During the tenure of Guy Lombardo, young Dick Clark began a broadcast on ABC, to rival the traditional big-band sounds of Lombardo. Following Lombardo’s death in 1977, focus shifted to Dick Clark, who hosted Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve for 33 years. Today, Ryan Seacrest continues to host the Dick Clark tradition on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Last year, Los Angeles began its own tradition of hosting a grand New Year’s Eve event in Grand Park. The public party drew more than 25,000 spectators, and is expected to continue each year.


This year, more than 1 million spectators are expected on the streets near Times Square for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Confirmed to perform will be Taylor Swift, Idina Menzel, country-rocker Brantley Gilbert and Fergie. Elton John will be performing from Brooklyn, and Nick Jonas, One Direction and UK singer Ella Henderson will sing in Times Square. ABC will host the special, which will begin at 8 p.m. in Times Square, New York.


Watch Night became especially meaningful to African Americans when, on New Year’s Eve of 1862, slaves gathered to hear news about Abraham Lincoln’s plan to issue the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The 150th anniversary of that historic declaration occurred two years ago in 2013, but many groups concerned about civil rights now are getting ready for sesquicentennial events marking the final adoption of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865. Speakers at some local Watch Night events will recall that entire sweep of history.

A quieter, thankful approach to New Year’s Eve has deep roots. Methodists observe “Watch Night” in a custom begun by Methodist founder John Wesley that involves giving thanks for the past year and expressing hopes for the New Year. Some other Protestant groups follow similar traditions. In the Roman Catholic Church, a vigil Mass has become popular on the evening of New Year’s Eve. (Wikipedia has details.)

Groups that prefer an alternative to alcohol-fueled parties also have adopted this practice.

New Year’s Eve party planning?

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