When it comes to tradition and ceremony, Christmas rules the roost: Between cookies and candies, trees and yule logs, it sometimes seems like every part of the holiday season is rife with symbolism and history. New Year's, by comparison, is subtler and a little more tinged with melancholy -- a celebration that welcomes the future yet looks back thoughtfully on the past.
Next week, as millions of people around the world watch fireworks, drink champagne and toast the arrival of 2013, it's worth taking a moment to think about the hodgepodge of songs, drinks and delicacies that have grown up around this holiday. If you've ever wondered how New Year's developed -- or why we sing an 18th century Scottish ballad on the last day of December, take a peek at our New Year's quiz!
Pop Quiz: Test Your New Year's Knowledge
A. Times Square, New York
B. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
C. The Champs Elysees, Paris
D. Sydney, Australia
While Sydney boasts the second-largest New Year's celebration (and the year's first), it pales beside the 2 million to 2.3 million people who descend on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach every year.
"Auld Lang Syne" is truly an international song. Written by Scottish national poet Robert Burns, it became a signature song for Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo. In 1929, Lombardo sang the song on his New Year's radio broadcast from New York's Roosevelt Hotel, and it soon entered into his yearly New Year's repertoire.
A. The U.S.
Germany produces 430 million bottles of sparkling wine per year -- a fair bit less than France's 500 million. Spain is third, Italy is fourth, and the U.S. and Russia are tied for fifth, with 150 million bottles each.
A. 103 feet
B. 152 feet
C. 177 feet
D. 189 feet
In 1988, physics professor Heinrich Medicus set the world record for a popped champagne cork. At New York's Woodbury Winery and Cellars, he set a bottle at 45 degrees, on a four-foot elevation, and sent a cork flying 177 feet, nine inches.
In Mexico, underwear is a virtual wish list of New Year's desires. For love, people wear red, while green signifies money. White suggests hopes for peace and yellow indicates a desire for plenty.
A. Collard greens
B. Boiled codfish
Symbolizing an influx of cash in the New Year, collard greens are a classic New Year's food in the South. In Denmark, people traditionally go for boiled codfish -- a nice break from their rich Christmas food. As for grapes, Spanish farmers in 1909 began encouraging people to eat twelve grapes at midnight -- one for every hour of the New Year; in addition to celebrating the new year, this helped them get rid of their grape surplus. As for lobsters, it's considered bad luck to eat any animal -- such as a lobster or a chicken -- that walks backward.
While some countries, like Denmark and Australia, make fireworks a central part of their national New Year's traditions, almost every country celebrates with some form of controlled explosion.