Celebrating New Year’s in the Edwardian Era

A New Year's Eve party, circa 1910s

Celebrating New Year’s in the Edwardian Era

Think throwing a New Year’s bash is a recent tradition?  Think again.  In the Edwardian era, just like today, people celebrated the coming year with a party. Let’s take a look at the origin of New Year’s traditions.

Foods

Cultures around the world eat foods thought to bring good luck in the new year or circular foods that symbolize the year coming full circle.

Singing “Auld Lang Syne”

Written in the 18th century and set to a folk song melody, this Scottish poem is sung in English-speaking nations at midnight as a send off to the old year. In Scotland and areas with a large Scottish population, the song is often accompanied by a dance. The dance is illustrated in my holiday short fiction “The Final Holiday of Innocence Part Two.”

Dropping the Ball

The tradition of dropping a ball in Times Square, New York, dates back to 1907. The ball was lit by 100 incandescent bulbs. Once the ball dropped, it tripped a circuit which lit up a New Year’s sign. It was the brainchild of the owner of The New York Times who wanted a showstopper to replace the popular firework show he founded in 1904 after the city banned the display.

A newspaper ad advertising New Year's celebrations for 1908, complete with an electric ball drop
A newspaper ad advertising New Year’s celebrations for 1908, complete with an electric ball drop
Times Square, circa 1904
Times Square, circa 1904

Parties

Parties became popular in the early 20th century. They were generally joyous celebrations with one’s family and friends. Party-goers expect to have a good time and often were kissed at midnight.

A New Year's Eve party, circa 1910s
A New Year’s Eve party, circa 1910s

Father Time/Baby New Year

The duo began appearing in cartoons in the 19th century. The baby represents the promise of the New Year while old Father Time represents aging or death of the old year.

The Toast

Generally expresses hope for the coming year.

Edwardian partygoers toast the arrival of the new year
Edwardian partygoers toast the arrival of the new year

Cards

The Edwardians also sent cards at New Year’s.

A card wishing a happy New Year 1908
A Happy New Year 1908
An Edwardian Happy New Year card
A Happy New Year

Want a glimpse at an early New Year’s celebrate?  Visit my Pinterest board New Year’s: 1890-1920.

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Updated:  20 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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