Can you make it to midnight in this New Year's quiz?

Abi Luftig

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

New Year's Eve is known around the world as the party of the year, and New Year's Day is the day when everyone nurses the hangover of the year. But how much do you really know about the history and traditions of New Year's?

Who declared January 1st to be the start of the new year?

In 46 B.C.E., Roman emperor Julius Caesar was attempting to lengthen the Julian calendar in order to help it line up with solar and lunar calendars. He added two months, one of which was named January, in honor of the god of doors and gates, Janus. Since Janus has two faces, one looking forward and one looking back, Caesar felt that it was appropriate to have January start the new year. His thinking was that Janus had the ability to look back on the past while looking ahead to the present and future.

As Christianity spread, the new year was moved to what month?

As most people know, Christianity has a history of absorbing and repurposing pagan holidays to match up with holy feasts. In this case, the start of the new year was moved to Annunciation Day (March 25) which commemorates the angel Gabriel’s proclamation to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus.

What authority figure moved it back to January?

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII declared the Julian calendar obsolete and created the Gregorian calendar, which is still used today. Pope Gregory made the correction by changing the factors of leap days and moving the calendar up by 10 days. He then reset the start of the year to occur on January 1st.

In what decade did the ball drop in Times Square begin?

The first Times Square Ball drop was in 1907. It was inspired by a maritime tradition called “dropping a time ball," which allowed sailors to adjust their chronometers while at sea.

What does “auld lang syne” mean?

People around the world (and fans of "When Harry Met Sally") know that it's tradition to sing "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight. Most people attribute the lyrics to famed Scottish poet Robert Burns ​but this is not entirely accurate. In 1788, the Scots Musical Museum received a letter from Burns including the words to the song. He noted in his letter that it was an old Scottish folk song, handed down from the days of the oral tradition, but he was given credit for being the first person to commit the words to writing.

In Spain, what fruit is eaten at midnight?

In Spain and many other Spanish-speaking countries, it is customary to eat twelve grapes at midnight, one at each chime of the clock. Each grape symbolizes a month of the upcoming year, and eating the grape is said to bring you luck.

What source of protein is eaten in many parts of the world?

Legumes, a blanket term for plants that bear fruit in an easily splittable pod, are an excellent source of protein AND luck. Because legumes tend to look like coins on the outside, people eat them to invite wealth in the new year. In Italy, lentils are the most popular choice, and in the southern half of the USA, black-eyed peas are the favorite.

What type of meat is traditionally eaten at New Year's?

In many cultures around the world, pigs are seen as signs of wealth and prosperity. As such, pork is the meat of choice for New Year's in Cuba, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, and parts of the northern US.

What shape of pastry is popular on NYE?

Reflecting the belief that life is connected and the year has gone full circle, people in many countries like to eat round pastries on New Year's. This is a particularly common tradition in Mexico, Greece, and The Netherlands.

Scandinavian countries enjoy what dessert during their New Year's festivities?

Rice pudding is a holiday staple in Scandinavia, Sweden and Norway, in particular. The custom is to hide an almond in the pudding; whoever finds the almond will have a year full of good fortune.

What item is dropped in the town center at midnight?

Yes, the Times Square Ball isn't the only spectacle dropped at midnight. Among other things, a giant pickle is dropped in both Mt. Olive, North Carolina and Dillsburg, Pennsylvania. Boise, Idaho drops a giant potato. Frederick, Maryland drops a giant key. Other interesting midnight drops include Bethlehem, PA's giant marshmallow Peep, Mobile, AL's Moon pie, and Pensacola, FL's pelican.

The government of what country fell to a coup on New Year's Day?

On New Year's Day in 1959, Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement successfully captured Havana. Dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country to the nearby Dominican Republic, and Castro soon assumed power.

What famous historical document was signed on New Year's Day?

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln officially signed the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. A preliminary version of the decree had been released the previous September, following the Union victory at Antietam.

What is the name of the parade held in Philadelphia every New Year's Day?

The Mummer's Parade combines the British tradition of mummery with influences from Swedish, Finnish, and German culture, and has been officially marched every year since 1901, though unofficial mini-parades are said to have happened as early as 1876. Groups march in four separate categories (comics, fancies, string bands, and fancy brigades) and the best entry in each category wins.

Who hosted a live New Year's Eve special for 33 years?

Starting in 1970, Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand, began hosting a live New Year's Eve show called "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve." He hosted for 33 consecutive years until he had a stroke in December of 2004. Regis Philbin stepped in to cover for a while. Clark officially handed over the reins to Ryan Seacrest in 2006 and continued to make guest appearances until his death in 2012.

In what Mediterranean country do children sing New Year’s carols to earn treats?

Done on both Christmas and New Year's Eves, children in Greece go door to door singing songs called kalandas, which bless the house to which they are being sung. In return for the songs blessing their houses, neighbors reward the children with candy and dried fruits.

What country celebrates with a festival called Hogmanay?

Hogmanay is celebrated throughout Scotland and each region has its own traditions. Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, has a tradition of swinging fireballs. In Dundee, they carry a decorated herring through the streets. In Edinburgh, a cannon is set off at each stroke of midnight.

What is traditionally lit at midnight around the world?

Fireworks were invented in China in the 7th century to scare off evil spirits. They were made with gunpowder, which is considered one of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China, the other three being printing, papermaking, and the compass.

What is the name of the New Year's Parade held in Pasadena, CA?

The Rose Parade, also known as The Tournament of Roses Parade, began in Pasadena in 1890. In 1902, The Rose Bowl game was created as a way to fund the parade. In 2011, Honda began sponsoring the parade, but the Rose Bowl game continues to be played.

What animal-named challenge often takes place on New Year's Day?

A tradition specific to the Northern Hemisphere, Polar Bear Plunges are organized events where participants essentially run into near-freezing bodies of water. They are usually fundraisers for charities, such as the Special Olympics and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

What age is the human representation of the New Year?

The outgoing year is often personified as Old Man Time, who hands over the role of Time to a baby. The baby wears a sash with the new year printed on it. As the story goes, the baby will grow into an old man over the course of the year, and the cycle will begin again the following year.

Why are most places closed on New Year's Day?

New Year's Day is a public holiday in most of the world, including the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and others. Schools, post offices, government facilities, and banks are closed. While not required by law, most businesses also tend to be closed that day.

What physical gesture do people usually do at midnight?

One of the biggest stresses for single people on New Year's Eve is "who am I going to kiss at midnight?" People kiss at midnight due to the belief that kissing someone at the stroke of midnight ensures that the couple will still be together and happy at the start of the next new year.

What garment do people in Latin America color-code in accordance with their wishes for the new year?

In many Latin American countries, people believe that the color of the underwear they are wearing on New Year's will influence the type of year they'll have. Yellow is said to bring prosperity and success, red brings love, white brings peace and harmony, and green brings well-being and good health.

What song, made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, asks about going on a date on New Year's Eve?

Written by Frank Loesser in 1947, the song has been covered by more than 40 artists. It first charted when The Orioles performed it in 1949, but it was Ella Fitzgerald's 1960 version that truly helped make the song a classic.

What 1960s TV show marathons on SyFy every year?

The Syfy channel has been streaming New Years​ and 4th of July "Twilight Zone" marathons for over twenty years. "The Twilight Zone" aired 156 episodes throughout its 1959-1964 run and served as a platform for stars such as Robert Redford, William Shatner, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Carol Burnett, and Buster Keaton.

What long-running cartoon marathons on FXX every year?

Beginning as a short on "The Tracy Ullman Show" in 1987, "The Simpsons" was an immediate hit. In 1989, America's favorite dysfunctional family got its own half-hour show on Fox. Throughout its 28 seasons, "The Simpsons" has earned 31 Primetime Emmy Awards, 30 Annie Awards, a Peabody Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In Finland, fortunes are told by melting what metal and throwing it into water?

In Finland, and some other countries, tin is melted down until it is molten and then the molten tin is put in cold water. Once it cools and hardens, fortunes are told based on both the shape the tin takes and the shadows it casts on the ground.

How many times do Buddhist temples in Japan ring their bells to ring in the new year?

Buddhist temples ring their ceremonial bells 108 times to help banish the 108 Kleshas, negative states of mind such as anxiety, fear, anger, and jealousy. The bell is rung 107 times on December 31st, and once after midnight on January 1st.

What is the traditional drink to imbibe at New Year's?

Champagne was originally viewed as a mistake resulting from over-fermentation, but in the 17th century, began to be associated with royalty and class. In addition to its fancy reputation, popping the cork at midnight adds an extra sense of fun.

What iconic 70s pop band recorded a song to welcome the 80s?

ABBA recorded "Happy New Year" for their album, Super Trouper, which reached Number 17 on the Billboard Charts. The lyrics reflect on the past decade and the future decade, asking "It's the end of a decade / In another 10 year's time, who can say what we'll find? / What lies waiting down the line, at the end of '89?"

What should be left open at midnight?

Tradition says that doors must be left open at midnight to let the spirits of the last year escape. It's believed that the new year cannot arrive until the old year has left.

What weather phenomenon is used to predict the tone of the upcoming year?

Legend has it that the wind can predict the future on New Year's. Wind from the south will bring both good weather and good fortunes. Northern wind predicts a year of bad weather. Eastern wind brings disasters and famine. Western wind is a mixed bag, bringing "plentiful supplies of milk and fish," but also predicting the death of someone very important. The best outcome is no wind at all, which foretells that "a joyful and prosperous year may be expected by all."

What major life change do some people choose to undertake on New Year's Eve?

Yes, a case could be made for "being born" to be the right answer, but births tend to be slightly more spontaneous than weddings. Inspired by the legend of kissing at midnight being good luck for relationships, many couples choose to tie the knot on New Year's, timing the ceremony so "you may kiss the bride" comes right before midnight.

Which is not a danger of New Year's Eve?

Most people are aware of the dangers of drunk driving, and hopefully, most people know the fireworks can cause burns or blindness. People tend to forget that in some regions, people fire guns in the air at midnight, and those bullets have to come back down, often striking people as they do. Other dangers include being robbed, being drugged, and being assaulted. Please be careful out there, folks!

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