New Year’s Eve and Day Traditions

Why do so many people celebrate and party on New Year’s Eve?  What happens – apart from nursing a hangover – about New Year’s Day?  It seems like the traditions on these dates goes back a long time.  The first month – January – was established by the Roman Calendar and was named after Janus, a god, which is also the Latin word for door.  Janus had two faces enabling him to look back into the old year (and perhaps inspire him to make changes from his past actions) and forwards into the new one.

The Door Custom

In the olden days, the New Year started with a custom known as the 'first footing', which was intended to bring people good luck in the New Year. After midnight, people waited behind their doors for someone with dark-hair to show up, carrying a piece of coal, bread, money and greenery. These symbolic items were meant for good luck; the coal to ensure a warm house; the bread to symbolize everyone in the house having enough to eat; money so that no-one experienced poverty and greenery for a long life. Following this, the dark-haired guest took a pan with dust or ashes in, to signify the end of the old year and beginning of the new one.

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New Year’s Eve Today

Today it seems most of these traditions are no longer kept. People just party pretty hard, get a bit drunk and enjoy fireworks in most places.  In Great Britain at the stroke of midnight, partygoers traditionally link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne to remind them of old and new friends.  In New York they watch the ball drop and in San Francisco, the Waterfront Area is a very popular place to be at midnight.

Ronald McDonald Is No Longer My Friend


“Happy” Meals Sadden Kids?  Not for 10 Cents!

It’s like taking a candy from a kid…but in this case it’s a toy.  Well, it could be, now that the McDonald’s chain is set to charge for the toy that they put in the “Happy Meal.”  It’s not quite the company’s fault though and it does not look like this will be happening nationwide. 

The issue is that there is a law in the city of San Francisco that bans putting toys in kids’ meals that are deemed to be unhealthy (which means they have a high fat, salt and sugar content, aka the McDonald’s Happy Meals).  This law goes into effect tomorrow. 

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Cleverly however, McDonald’s has a plan.  The way it is “dealing” with the issue is by charging customers for the addition of the toy (so it doesn’t break the law about being a free toy). Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds as the charge will be pretty negligible… 10 cents!

San Francisco Making the Most of It!

Actually what is going to end up happening is that the way San Francisco is going to get around the law is to ultimately produce MORE smiley faces!  Because of the ban – and given what Scott Rodrick (owner of 10 out of the 19 franchises in the city) is doing to work within the law to enable kids to still get their toy – the money will be used to help construct a new Ronald McDonald House which will probably temporary housing for families with sick children.  This will be built at the new UCSF Hospital that is currently being erected on the Mission Bay campus.

So indeed it seems that every cloud has a silver lining.  Kids will still be thrilled with their “Happy Meals” and parents for sure won’t mind basically donating 10 cents to a really good cause so that they can get a toy as well.  It’s a win-win for everyone!