December 26, 2012


New Year's Eve celebrations today are a little different than they were back in the nineteenth century. Hogmanay or New Year's Eve was a Scots custom that spread to the British Isles and then was brought to America by immigrants.  Celebrations by the English and the Welch included recitations of traditional rhymes. The Swedes and Finns celebrated by firing off their guns. On New Year's day the ladies stayed at home to exchange New Year's greetings with a string of gentlemen callers.

If you were a teen living back then, you may have seen fireworks just like we do today.  Fireworks were  introduced in the United States very early in our history.  The first fireworks display was on the 4th of July, 1777, just a year after our independence. A resident of Philadelphia would have seem mummers dressed in costume parade through the streets, although the first organized Mummer's Parade wasn't until 1901.

Several traditions that we have today were not in place yet at the turn of the twentiety century.  The song Auld Lang Syne (roughly translated to "for (the sake of) old times"), although written as a poem by Robert Burns in 1788, wasn't widely known as a song in America until Guy Lombardo and his band introduced it on New Year's Eve in 1929. It soon became a classic played at midnight to ring in the New Year.  We've all seen the iconic image of the New Year's Eve ball drop in Times Square as midnight chimes, but it wasn't until 1907 that the first ball was installed.

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