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NEW YEAR'S DAY FEATURE - January 1, 2003 : Celebrating New Year's - 2002-12-31


Now a VOA Special English program for the new year's holiday. Here is Maurice Joyce.



January first. The beginning of a new year. As far back in history as we can tell, people have celebrated the start of a new year.

The people of ancient Egypt began their new year in summer. That is when the nile river flooded its banks, bringing water and fertility to the land. The people of ancient Babylonia and Persia began their new year on March twenty-first, the first day of spring. And, some Native American Indians began their new year when the nuts of the oak tree became ripe. That was usually in late summer.

Now, almost everyone celebrates New Year's Day on January first. Today, as before, people observe the new year's holiday in many different ways.

The ancient Babylonians celebrated by forcing their king to give up his crown and royal clothing. They made him get down on his knees and admit all the mistakes he had made during the past year.

This Idea of admitting wrongs and finishing the business of the old year is found in many societies on New Year's. So is the idea of making resolutions. A resolution is a promise to change your ways. To stop smoking, for example. Or to get more physical exercise.

Noise-making is another ancient custom at the new year. The noise is considered necessary to chase away the evil spirits of the old year. People around the world do different things to Make a lot of noise. They may hit sticks together. Or beat on drums. Or blow horns. Or explode fireworks.

Americans celebrate the new year in many ways.

Most do not have to go to work or school. So they visit family and friends. Attend church services. Share a holiday meal. Or watch New Year's parades on television. Two of the most famous parades are the Mummer's Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. Both have existed for many years.

Americans also watch football on television on New Year's Day. Most years, university teams play in special holiday games.

For those who have been busy at work or school, new year's may be a day of rest. They spend the time thinking about, and preparing for, the demands of the new year.