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Meaning Behind New Year Traditions

From a kiss at midnight to the beginnings of New Year’s resolutions, we take a look at how some of the most familiar New Year traditions came to be.

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Auld Lang Syne

A Scottish folk song that is sung across the world as the New Year rolls in each year, Auld Lang Syne means ‘old long since’ or ‘for old times’ sake’. A poem written by Robert Burns in 1788, the idea of singing the song at midnight is to bid farewell to the year that has just passed. It was originally a Scottish custom, but this tradition was quickly transported across the world.

Midnight kiss

Kissing a loved one as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve is a well-known tradition nowadays, but it apparently has ancient roots. The transition between one year to the next is thought by some to be a time when evil spirits can cause havoc. The simple solution of sharing a kiss at midnight is said to ward off these spirits and ensure a year ahead full of luck and happiness.

Popping open some bubbly

We all love a tipple of the sparkly stuff to celebrate the New Year, but drinking Champagne at this time is only a relatively recent tradition. Drinking Champagne to mark an occasion has been linked back to the Christian ritual of consuming wine to represent the blood of Christ at the Eucharist. The ritual eventually became a secular tradition too, used to mark a whole range of important occasions. However, drinking Champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve is actually thought to be rooted in advertising, when Champagne makers designed an association between bubbly and festive occasions in a bid to sell more!


It’s a familiar sound to hear the crackle and bang of fireworks from the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Amazingly, this is a tradition that dates all the way back to 7th century China, when fireworks were invented. With evil spirits expected to roam the earth as one year transitions into another, fireworks were seen as a way to ward them off. It’s another tradition that has not only stuck, but been adopted across the globe.

New Year’s resolutions

Seeing the new year as an opportunity to make promises to do better in the year ahead seems like a fairly recent phenomenon to many of us, but the tradition actually dates back to Ancient Mesopotamia. During this time, people made spoken oaths to the King, which was seen as crucial to keep the kingdom running efficiently. The Romans also swore oaths to their emperor at the start of their New Year every March.

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