New Year’s Day History: Incorporating New Year’s Traditions Into The Garden

By Nikki Tilley | January 2, 2020
Image by Believe_In_Me
by Nikki Tilley
January 2, 2020

It’s that time again – another new year. Considered one of the most celebrated holidays worldwide, New Year’s Day history is full of surprises. For instance, it wasn’t always celebrated the first of January. In fact, the earliest recorded celebration in the history of New Year’s dates back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon with the new moon in late March. Lasting a full eleven days, the Mesopotamians honored the rebirth of the natural world while also offering promises to the Supreme for a good year ahead.

New Year’s Traditions

Since that time lots of things have changed, including its celebratory date – December 31 (New Year’s Eve) to January 1 (New Year’s Day). A number of cultures welcome the new year with various traditions, many of which can be easily incorporated in the garden. Bet you never thought of that one! Creating a New Year’s garden? That’s right.

With just a little imagination, gardeners can create their own New Year’s tradition when planning out their gardens each year. After all, the new year is a time for reflection, looking back on past mistakes and finding ways to improve. The garden is a great place to start.

We normally celebrate with good luck feasts (and lots of drinking), New Year’s resolutions and kissing our significant others at the stroke of midnight. Some people wish for wealth and love. Others just want to ward off evil spirits. Adding some of these old traditions in new gardens can be a fun way to keep them going throughout the year, rather than just one day. I mean, if the Mesopotamians could celebrate for eleven days, why can’t we keep the celebration going as long as we want too?

New Year’s Garden Ideas

While it’s fine to stick with eating certain foods to bring about luck, fortune and health, there’s a place in the garden for them as well. Don’t just eat them – grow them! Things like cabbage, lentils, greens, and black-eyed peas are commonly eaten during New Year’s celebrations but can be grown in the garden too. The tradition of eating twelve grapes (in Spain) for each month of the year offers the chance to grow your own grapes, or any round fruit for that matter. Why round? Circles are believed to bring about wealth in many cultures. Some even bake cakes with coins inside for this reason. You might even design circular beds in the landscape this year.

What else can you do with the history of New Year’s in your garden? Here are a few more ideas to get those creative juices stirring and get a jump on your garden planning this new season (FYI; jumping is a tradition for good luck and warding off evil):

  • The kissing tradition, with English/German roots, can be given a twist by adding romantic plants to the garden. Think roses, lilies, foxglove, or shasta daisy.
  • In places like Columbia it is popular to carry empty suitcases around the block for a year filled with travel. Upcycle some of your old suitcases into new garden additions, either overflowing with plants or left empty and strategically placed as garden ornaments.
  • Some people practice the act of breaking peppermint pigs for luck. Why not grow peppermint in the garden and have a little luck all year?
  • Others open windows/doors to bring in good energy while a few more dump water out the window to chase away bad spirits. Using old doors and windows in the garden is yet another interesting way to give this old tradition new life.
  • Bonfires are common in many cultures. Carve out a cozy spot for a fire pit to enjoy your garden when the days are cool.
  • Some regions wear certain undergarment colors to reflect what they yearn for in the year ahead – red signifying love, yellow/green for money, and white for peace and harmony. Of course, I don’t recommend adding undergarments to your garden but you can instead replace this with specific flowers or plants in these colors – red, white, yellow, green.
  • Going back to the 1600s in Russia, New Year’s trees are popular and traditionally decorated similar to Christmas trees. Find a good specimen tree in the landscape, or replant your Christmas tree and decorate it.
  • Starting the New Year off with a bang is commonplace in most areas. In the garden, however, it can be more subtle with the addition of wind chimes and other soothing sounds.

The history of New Year’s celebrations is quite diverse depending on where you are. So, too, are our imaginations. These are just some quirky ideas to create your own celebratory New Year’s garden to welcome the upcoming year with good vibes.

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