People carry many traditions to usher into the new year, inviting good riddance with the clinking of champagne glasses, eating 12 grapes, cleaning one’s space, wearing red, and even the infamous midnight kiss to name a few.
Over the years, pop culture highlighted many traditions, but most notably locking lips at the stroke of midnight which stems from English and German folklore. It was believed what was done or who was encountered on the first day of the year could affect the luck of the coming year, according to the book Ancient Rome to the Superbowl.
A New York Times article written in 1863 is one of the earliest references to kissing on New Years eve that discussed German celebrations:
"As the clocks ring out the hour of midnight, all this festivity pauses for a moment, to listen, and as the last stroke dies into silence, all big and little, old and young, male and female, push into each other's arms, and hearty kisses go round like rolls of labial musketry, with the exclamation 'Prost's Neujahr!' (Hail the New-Year!).”
Themes of potential redemption, love, hope and loss explored by films like the Phantom Thread, When Harry Met Sally, 200 Cigarettes and New Years Eve capture the heightened emotions that come with new year's eve celebrations. One of the first films that showed the new year's kiss was a 1938 American romantic comedy, “Holiday”, featuring Kathrine Hepburn and Carry Grant.The film was a remake of a 1930 film of the same name.
According to Alexis McCrossen, a professor of history at Southern Methodist University, the midnight kiss is a tradition that is a few hundred years old and it is a tradition seen across the world. The new year midnight kiss has been widely documented worldwide in festive and illuminated settings.
It turns out that the New years celebrations took place during the day up until the late 1800s, according to McCrossen, who is the author of an upcoming book focusing on New Year’s Day traditions in the U.S., “Time's Touchstone: The New Year in American Life”. Celebrations of a new year became one of anticipation when electricity became more available.
“At the end of the 19th century, cities began to be illuminated at night,” McCrosse said. “When you get people out at night and you have more public venues for parties and you have more precise timekeeping, then people begin to celebrate New Year's Eve.”
But with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the grim conditions of the fast spreading omicron variant, the nation’s infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci urges people to cancel plans for larger parties and limit physical contact with others.
“If your plans are to go to a 40- to 50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year, I would strongly recommend that this year we do not do that,” Fauci said during the White House COVID-19 briefing Wednesday
Fauci warned that “although the risk is never zero in anything, the risk is low enough that we feel you should continue to go through with those plans of having a home-related vaccinated, boosted gathering with family and close friends who are also vaccinated and boosted
The advice follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting a new single day COVID-19 record of 441,000 cases, which was a spike from the previous daily record of nearly 300,000 cases reported in early January.