December 31 (RIA Novosti) - From the crowded pavement of New York’s Times Square to the icy waters of Flathead Lake in Montana, Americans ring in the new year with a colorful variety of traditions, rituals and festivities. Here is a look at some of them:
Since 1907, Manhattan’s Times Square has been the premier destination for New Year’s Eve revelers in the United States. Thousands turn out to watch as an 11,875-pound (5,386-kilogram) illuminated ball is lowered on a pole atop a building as the clock ticks down to midnight. Not to be outdone, locals in Eastport, Maine lower a giant fake sardine from a third-story building window while in Mobile, Alabama celebrants cheer as a 600-pound (272-kilogram), electrified replica of a Moon Pie – a popular local desert – is lowered into a downtown square. Celebrations in Brasstown, North Carolina have for years centered on lowering a live opossum from the roof of a local store. This year however, the live animal will be replaced with a stuffed one due to pressure from animal rights activists.
Among the unusual dishes to appear on New Year’s Eve tables in the United States is Hoppin’ John – a meal made of pork and field or black-eyed peas, served with rice, collard greens and cornbread. Hoppin’ John has its roots in African and West Indian traditions and is thought to have been introduced to the United States by slaves. Preparing and eating Hoppin’ John is believed by many to bring luck and prosperity in the new year and remains a popular tradition in much of the southern United States.
Each year in the western state of Colorado, New Year’s Eve is celebrated by some with a grueling ascent to the summit of Pike’s Peak – a 14,111-foot (4,300-meter) mountain along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. At the stroke of midnight, participants fire off a spectacular barrage of fireworks that can be seen hundreds of miles away on a clear night. The climb is open to all comers but they have to apply in advance for clearance to join the group which ascends to the summit on icy and snow-swept slopes in temperatures far below freezing.
Letting go of the past is the goal behind religious Burning Bowl services, popular with members of the Unity Church, a spiritual Christian movement with more than 900 affiliated church groups nationwide.
During annual New Year’s Eve celebrations, participants are asked to write down on a piece of paper the “negative conditions” in their lives that they wish to consign to the past. These petitions are then dropped in a cauldron and set alight in a traditional New Year’s Eve ceremony that adherents say is meant to symbolize release and renewal.
Swimming in Things
In Western Montana, revelers will brave icy waters to ring in the New Year at the Polar Bear Plunge celebration. For nearly two decades, swarms of people visit Flathead Lake near Woods Bay, to take a dip in the frigid waters and share their New Year’s resolutions at this annual event. The icy swim is followed by a daylong celebration with a parade and festival hosted by the local Raven Brew Pub.
In the African-American community, attending religious Watch Night services are a historic tradition dating back to New Year's Eve in 1862, when slaves gathered at church to await confirmation that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that freed all slaves. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the proclamation, and a host of African-American churches across the country will read the proclamation at midnight, as they do each year on New Year Eve.
Each New Year's Day, the attention of millions of Americans turns Pasadena, California, home of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game, one of several college championship events. The festival of flowers, music and football has been a tradition since the 1890s and has been dubbed “America's New Year Celebration”. This year’s parade will feature 41 floats, 24 marching bands, and 21 equestrian units.
“Days Gone By” is the rough translation of the Scottish folk song Auld Lang Syne, the tune traditionally sung by revelers just after the stroke of midnight and the attendant kissing ritual. The Scottish bard Robert Burns is credited with adapting the song which has been sung on New Year’s Eve in the United States and other English-speaking countries since the mid-19th century. The song’s place in American New Year’s Eve rituals was cemented on December 31, 1929 when orchestra leader Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians played it during a radio broadcast from New York’s Roosevelt Hotel.