It all began in the Roman Empire – around the year 150 B.C – as a purely administrative measure. Originally, New Year celebrations were held around 1st March but, as the Roman Empire grew bigger and more time was needed to plan its military campaigns (which they aways did around New Year), the decision was made to move New Year back by two months. So this is why we celebrate New Year’s Eve on 31st December, and the reason why our ninth month is called September, even though septem is Latin for seven.
Partying was something the Romans took very seriously. New Year’s Day was dedicated to the god Janus, who also gave his name to the first month. It was ’dies faustus’ – a happy day, when courting important and high-ranking individuals with good wishes and swapping gifts (such as gilded dates and figs, and copper) took place.
Up here in the north of Sweden, we would also held a party at the end of December; the midwinter sacrifice. The exact date is a bit unclear. However, already back in the days of the vikings it was customary to make New Year’s Resolutions. This could be done in two ways: either by emptying a Brage beaker (a large cup or goblet) in honour of the viking god, Brage, or by swearing at a boar’s bristle. Nowadays, fortunately, it’s more about champagne and lobster…
There are two things linking the Swedish and the British New Year celebrations. Firstly, Sweden and the UK were the last countries in Europe to switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, in the mid 1700s. Before that, we celebrated New Year 12 days later than the rest of Europe. Secondly, Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem, Ring Out, Wild Bells, has been recited just before midnight on New Year’s Eve in Sweden since 1895. First on the stage at Solliden in Stockholm and, since 1977, on the radio and television .
Where would you rather celebrate the New Year? Below are some of our favourites.
Happy New Year!