Just the time to recover from the joys, sometimes also excesses, of the Christmas holidays, and it is already time to think about New Year’s Eve. What are the origins of this celebration?
The last festivity of the year, New Year’s Eve, is not religious. Some relate to the story of the priest Sylvester, a Roman who was elected 33rd Pope who occupied the Holy See for 22 years, under the reign of Constantine the Great. He remained known for his constructions of large Roman basilicas. It is also said that he tamed a dragon … Sylvestre 1st, who became New Year’s Eve, died on December 31, 335.
At New Year’s Eve, we make noise to chase away evil spirits.
However, it is more likely that the Sigillaries, celebrated in ancient Rome to close the Saturnalia, and with them the festivities of the year, which are the source of New Year’s Eve. This celebration gave rise to large feasts, which made it possible to make the first bridge the bridge until the first day of year nine, since Jules César had fixed the end of the year on December 31. Traditionally, the longer the meal and the more dishes, the happier and more prosperous the new year would be.
Hence the tradition of aligning small and large dishes and feasting, often with friends but sometimes also with strangers, to pass the symbolic course of the new year by exchanging vows during the twelve strokes of midnight, then to have fun long at night.
Even if time zones oblige, the inhabitants of Auckland, in New Zealand, will be the first to celebrate the New Year, music, blows of horns, and other sound demonstrations will sound gradually everywhere in the world.
Why so much noise? The answer is to be found in an ancient belief that there is nothing like it to chase away evil spirits.
Kissing, yes, but under the mistletoe
Spending New Year’s Eve with those you love is already a great reason to be happy. There is, however, a moment when the eyes shine even stronger… with the twelve strokes of midnight approaching, it is not only the moment to exchange wishes, but also kisses, and, if possible, under the mistletoe.
Another tradition whose origin is lost (almost) in the mists of time. The Druids already considered mistletoe, especially that which grows on oaks as a sacred plant. They called it a” golden branch, “and only some of them had the privilege of being able to cut it, with a gold pruning stick if the legend is to be believed.
For mistletoe to retain all its virtues, it had to be picked on the sixth day of the moon, which corresponded to the beginning of the Gallic month.
At that time, all the virtues were lent to mistletoe, taken in the form of a drink: not only did it ensure fertility, but it was a remedy for all poisons. The Druids gave him a name that, in their language, meant” healing everything .”
The tradition happily crossed the centuries, since it was still custom in the Middle Ages to hang mistletoe on the beams of the ceilings to ensure the prosperity of the house and all its occupants: culture, animals, descendants …
Undoubtedly a survival of the old Druidic cult, it is still advisable, even today, to hang mistletoe on doors and windows at Christmas time and especially for New Year, to benefit the whole household and its guests of this true symbol of peace, health, and happiness.
Why are we kissing under the mistletoe? Different legends circulate
The first tells that the Druids themselves hung mistletoe at the entrance of their house, as a protection against evil spirits, and that they kissed their visitors under this same mistletoe to bring them luck and happiness.
Elsewhere it is said that, in very distant times, when enemies met under mistletoe in the forest, they gave up all combat and made peace overnight. This is where the custom of kissing under mistletoe would come from, as a sign of friendship.
Among the Romans, still at the time of Saturnalia , to kiss a young girl, it was enough to drag her without her knowledge under a ball of mistletoe: a popular belief wanted indeed that one cannot refuse such a kiss, at the risk of not getting married for the whole of the following year. Cunning was preferred to consent.
Mistletoe and its legends
Legends vary by region, of course. Thus, a Scandinavian tale depicts Baldut, the king of the sun, killed by an arrow poisoned by a jealous demon. The king’s mother, Preyla, goddess of love, then asked the gods to bring him back to life, in exchange for which she promised to kiss anyone who would pass under a tree bearing mistletoe. The gods answered it, and mistletoe became the symbol of both love and forgiveness. Pretty, right?
Thus, it is a good omen for lovers to kiss under the mistletoe: a long and happy married life awaits them. It is also sometimes said that the same kiss under the plant once considered sacred announces a wedding in the year. It is up to you to decide if you prefer to kiss your lover below, or right next to the mistletoe.
As for the kiss between friends, a veritable ritual of New Year’s Eve, it would promote the fulfillment of everyone’s wishes, while further sealing the bonds of friendship. So kiss without moderation, but … always under the mistletoe!