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New Year’s: One Country’s Times Square is Another’s Burnt Straw Dummy Outside Your Home

New Year's Eve in Times Square, New York City

New Year's Eve in Times Square, New York City

Fun Facts About New Year’s Traditions Around the World

Many New Year’s traditions are similar, but some are different. Here are some interesting customs, past and present, around the world.

New Year's in Sydney, Australia

New Year's in Sydney, Australia

Australia: New Year’s is celebrated on January 1. This is a public holiday and many people spend it having picnics and camping on the beach. Their parties start on December 31. At midnight they start to make noise with whistles, rattles, car horns, and church bells to ring in the New Year.

Austria:
 New Year’s Eve is called Sylverterabend, which is the Eve of Saint Sylvester. they make a spiced punch in honor of the saint. Decorations and champagne are part of the celebration. Evil spirits of the old year are chased away by the firing of moroars, called boller. Midnight mass is attended and trumpets are blown from church towers at midnight, when people kiss each other.

Belgium: New Year’s Eve is called Sint Sylvester Vooranvond, or Saint Sylvester Eve. People throw parties and at midnight everyone kisses and exchanges good luck greetings. New Year’s Day is call Nieuwjaarrsdag – children write letters on decorated paper to their parents and god parents, and read the letter to them.

Traditional First Footing offerings

Traditional First Footing offerings

Great Britain: the custom of first footing is practiced. the first male visitor to the house, after midnight, is supposed to bring good luck. The man brings a gift like money, bread, or coal, to ensure the family will have plenty of these in the year to come. The first person must not be blond, red-haired, or a woman, as these are supposed to be bad luck. In London, crowds gather in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly circus to hear the chimes of London’s Big Ben as it announces the arrival of the New Year.

France: The French New Year is Jour des Etrennes, or Day of New Year’s Presents. Dinner parties are thrown for the entire family, where presents are exchanged.

Germany: People drop molten lead into cold water to tell the future from the shape it makes. A bit of food eaten on New Year’s Eve is left on their plate until after Midnight, as a way on ensuring a well stocked larder in the coming year.

Greece: January 1 is an important date in Greece because it is St. Basil’s Day, as well as the first day of the year. St. Basil was known for his kindness to children. Stories tell how he would come in the night and leave gifts for children in their shoes. People gather, have special meals and exchange gifts.

A Jack Straw scarecrow in Hungary

A Jack Straw scarecrow in Hungary

Hungary: In Hungary the people burn effigies, or a scapegoat known as “Jack Straw”. The scapegoat represents the evils and misfortunes of the past year. Burning the effigy is supposed to get rid of the bad luck.

India: The Indian New Year’s is started with a festival of lights called Diwali. Cards and gifts are exchanged and people finish off any uncompleted work.

Japan: Oshogatsu in an important time for foamy celebrations when all business are closed. To keep out evil spirits they hang a rope of straw across the front of their houses. The rope stands for happiness and good luck. When the New Year begins, the Japanese people begin to laugh, which is supposed to bring them good luck in the New Year.

Netherlands: People burn Christmas Trees in street bonfires and let fireworks ring in the New Year.

Pope Sylvester I

Pope Sylvester I

Poland: Known as St. Sylvester’s Eve., in honor of Pope Sylvester I. Legend is that Pope Sylvester foiled the plans of a dragon to devour the world in the year 1000.

Portugal: The Portuguese pick and eat twelve grapes from a bunch as the clock strikes twelve on New Year;s Eve. The twelve grapes ensure twelve happy months in the coming year.

Colorblind Santa? Nyet...it's Russia's Grandfather Frost

Colorblind Santa? Nyet...it's Russia's Grandfather Frost

Russia: Grandfather Frost, who wears a blue suit instead of Santa’s red, arrives on New year’s Eve with his bag of toys for the children.

Scotland: Night of the Candle. People prepare for New Year by cleaning their home and purifying it with a ritual or burning juniper branches carried through the home. The First Footer says that whoever the first person to set foot into your home on New Year’s Day decides the luck of the family for the coming year.

South Africa: The New Year is rung in with church bells ringing and gunshots being fired. On New year’s Day there is a carnival atmosphere.

South America: A dummy or straw person is ofter placed outside the home and burned at midnight

Eating twelve grapes in Spain, Portugal and Greece is said to ensure good luck for the coming year

Eating twelve grapes in Spain, Portugal and Greece is said to ensure good luck for the coming year

Spain: Everything, including theater productions and movies, is stopped at Midnight on New Year’s. The clock strikes midnight and everyone eats twelve grapes. They eat one grape for each toll to bring good luck for the next twelve months of the New Year. Sometimes the grapes are washed down with wine.

United States: The New Year is often rung in with festive dancing parties and meals. People kiss each other at midnight and wish each other a “Happy New Year”.

Wales: At around 3:00 to 4:00 am on New Year’s morning, the boys of the village go from house to house with an evergreen twig to sprinkle on the people and then each room of their house, to bring good luck. On New Year’s Day the children travel the neighborhood singing songs are are rewarded with coins and sweets.

Special thanks to AssociatedContent.com

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Pluto: The former planet still fascinates and intrigues

Pluto with moons:  Charon, Nix and Hydra

Pluto with moons: Charon, Nix and Hydra

Fun Facts About Pluto

 

1. Pluto has an atmosphere

Even though Pluto’s average temperature averages a mere 44 degrees above absolute zero, the dwarf planet has an atmosphere. Not an atmosphere as we know it, but an atmosphere, none the less.

It was first discovered back in 1985, when astronomers watched as Pluto passed in front of a star. They were able to calculate a slight dimming as its atmosphere passed in front of the star, before Pluto itself blocked the star entirely. From those observations, they were able to calculate that it has a thin envelope of nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide.

As Pluto moves away from the Sun, this atmosphere gets so cold that it freezes onto the surface. And then as the dwarf planet warms again, the atmosphere evaporates again, forming a gas around it.

2. Pluto has 3 moons

You might have heard that Pluto has a large moon called Charon, but did you know that it actually has 3 moons in total. Charon is the large one, with a mass of roughly half that of Pluto’s.

Two additional moons, Nix and Hydra, were discovered by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope on May 15, 2005. They were originally called S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2, and then given their final names on June 21, 2006.

They took a long time to discover because they’re so tiny. Nix is only 46 km across, while Hydra is 61 km across.

3. Pluto hasn’t cleared out its orbit

Although Pluto orbits the Sun and it’s round, it’s not a planet. And that’s because Pluto hasn’t cleared out its orbit of material. This was the reason that the International Astronomical Union chose to demote it from planet to dwarf planet in 2006.

Just to give you an idea, if you added up the mass of all the other objects in Pluto’s orbit, Pluto’s mass would only be a tiny fraction of that total. In fact, it would only be 0.07 times as massive as everything else. For comparison, if you did the same thing with all the other material in the Earth’s orbit, our planet would be 1.5 million times as massive.

And that’s why Pluto’s not a planet.

4. Pluto is actually a binary system


You’d think that Charon orbits Pluto, but actually, Pluto and Charon orbit a common point in space. In the case of the Earth and the Moon, we actually orbit a common point, but that spot exists inside the Earth. In the case of Pluto and Charon, however, that common point is above the surface of Pluto.

Before Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet, astronomers were thinking of classifying it as a binary planet system. And then as a binary dwarf planet system. Perhaps that will help it recover some of its lost glory.

5. Pluto is named after a god, not a dog

If you think Pluto is named after a Disney character, you’re wrong. It’s actually named after the Roman god of the underworld. And Charon is the ferryman who carries souls across the river Styx.

When it was first discovered, Pluto was just given the name Planet X, but then the discoverers needed to come up with something better and more permanent. The name Pluto was suggested by Venetia Burney, an 11-year old school girl in Oxford, England. She thought it was a good name for such a cold, dark world. It was passed along to the discoverers and they liked it enough to make it official.

6. Pluto can be closer than Neptune

For most of its orbit, Pluto is more distant than Neptune, reaching out as far as 49 astronomical units (49 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun). But it has such an eccentric, elliptical orbit that it gets much closer, reaching a mere 29 AU. And during that time, it’s actually orbiting within the orbit of Neptune. The last time Pluto and Neptune made this switch was between February 7, 1979 and February 11, 1999. And give it another couple of hundred years and it’ll happen again.

7. Pluto is smaller than any planet, and even 7 moons

Pluto is small. How small? Astronomers recently calculated that its mass is 1.31 x 1022 kg (less than 0.24% the mass of Earth). And its diameter is only 2,390 km across.

At this point, it’s smaller than Mercury, and seven other moons including: Ganymede, Titan, Callisto, Io, Earth’s Moon, Europa, and Triton.

And now astronomers know that it’s even smaller than the recently discovered dwarf planet Eris. Here’s more information about how big Pluto is.

8. If it were closer to the Sun, Pluto would be a comet

Although this isn’t officially a reason for losing its planet status, Pluto wouldn’t last long if it got much closer to the Sun. It’s comprised of about half rock and half ice. This is a similar ratio to many rocky comets in the Solar System.

If you could somehow bring Pluto closer to the Sun, it would sprout a tail, becoming a spectacular comet. And over millions of years, the solar wind would blast away its icy structure, causing it to lose mass.

It’s lucky Pluto lives in such a cold, dark part of the Solar System.

9. Charon might have geysers

In the last few years, astronomers have discovered that several objects in the Solar System have ice geysers, including Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and maybe several others as well. But Pluto’s moon Charon could have this happening too.

Astronomers using the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea in Hawaii recently turned up evidence that geysers on Charon are spreading ammonia hydrates and water crystals across the surface of the moon.

Is this really happening? We’ll know soon, because… here’s the last Pluto fact.

10. There’s a spacecraft going to Pluto right now

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is making its way to Pluto right now. The spacecraft launched in 2005, and its expected to reach the dwarf planet in 2015. It will pass right through the system, imaging the surface of Pluto and its moons, and finally answering questions that have puzzled astronomers for nearly a hundred years.

 

Special thanks to www.universetoday.com

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