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Why the Midnight Racket on New Year's Eve

Among the various superstitions surrounding the advent of the New Year is the nearly mandatory practice of noisemaking at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Now looked upon as mere revelry, it once was considered protection against evil spirits, who would be scared off by all the noise.

Whistling, however, is strictly taboo; to whistle is to converse with the devil or invite him in. Sailors, actors and actresses, and miners are particularly aware of the ill luck associated with whistling. On board ship, whistling is thought to raise a storm. In the theatre, it is believed to close the show prematurely. For miners, it is a sign of alarm.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next has been celebrated since ancient times, though obviously not always on this date. It's believed that Dutch settlers brought the December 31 celebration to America, but Native Americans had already paved the way. Long before the settlers arrived, the Iroquois marked the end of the old year and the start of the new one by gathering up clothes, furnishings and household utensils, along with uneaten corn and other grains, and tossing them onto a great bonfire.

You can't get much more expressive than that.

2 comments:

  1. I had no idea about the whistle thing. I think it also prevents women, okay, me from getting a date. I'm going to test this theory out. I'll get back to you.

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  2. Well, the kids next door took care of the situation. I swear, between midnight and 12:15 a.m., one teen used every exhaled breath to toot on one of those cheapo, five-cent kazoo-with-a-fringe noisemakers. I think it must drive away the evil spirits, because I managed to resist tossing the firewood off the balcony at 'em.
    -Jas.

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