Published December 2008 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd WELCOMING A NEW YEAR As the clock ticks its final hours towards the beginning of the New Year, I like to take time to recall the joys of the recent year and, like so many of you, to make those annual New Year's resolutions - many of which for better or worse I find hard to keep.
The celebration of the beginning of a New Year dates back about 4000 years to ancient Babylon. Under the old Roman calendar, the New Year began sometime in the month of March, anticipating the coming of spring - a season of rebirth - and a time for the planting of crops. The Roman senate in 153 BC declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new calendar year. According to Judea-Christian tradition, New Year's Day is observed as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision, eight days after His birth. January 1 has been given the name of the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, by the Catholic Church.
The celebration of the New Year was traditionally a religious feast and to this day many people believe that certain foods will bring them good luck, prosperity and good health throughout the coming year. In many regions throughout our country, the traditional meal of pork and black-eyed peas is eaten for good luck. Others believe that cabbage - the leaves of which are considered a sign of prosperity - or rice bring good fortune in the New Year.
Celebrations on the eve of the New Year, now December 31, have become major events throughout the world. From Sydney to London to New York City, crowds gather to watch grandiose fireworks displays, parades, and the dropping of the crystal ball in Times Square as people cheer the outgoing year and welcome the new. At the stroke of midnight, many celebrants lock arms and join in singing, Auld Lang Syne, which translated means "times gone by." As the new year unfolds throughout the world, millions attend religious services, watch parades and football games, or spend precious time with family and friends and, yes even a few brave souls actually take a swim in cold bodies of water to cleanse their spirits for the upcoming year.
However you choose to celebrate the New Year, please do so safely. My fellow West Virginians, as we welcome 2009, I resolve to continue to be the kind of United States Senator which our State deserves. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving you. Happy New Year West Virginia.
December 31, 2008