Happy New Year

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 At midnight on 31st December bells will ring out around the world to welcome the New Year. Although certain countries and religions calculate time by other calendars most countries in the world now number their years according to the Gregorian calendar introduced in the 16th century by Pope Gregory XIII. This calendar was intended to overcome the confusion caused by calculating time according to the moon's phases.

 Bell ringing is one way of celebrating the arrival of a new year which is common to all countries welcoming it at this time; but it is the differences in their celebrations and customs which are intriguing.

 In Europe traditions vary considerably, but most of them involve a meal or special food. Swiss housewives bake special bread, rich in butter, eggs and raisins. They also cook roast goose. Children go from house to house greeting the occupants and receiving invitations to come inside. People in Italy hold all-night parties, where salt pork lentils are included on the menu. Lentils are supposed to be lucky and bring money - perhaps because they look like small piles of gold coins. There is a practical reason for meals featuring in these new year festivities. Most people stay up all night, or at least until midnight to "see the New Year in", so sustenance is essential. Also there is common superstition that if the new year begins well it will continue like that.

 So great efforts are made to provide an atmosphere of goodwill and plenty. Parties are arranged a drink flow freely. In Spain it is a custom to eat , ^ grapes at midnight and toast the new year in champagne. at family gatherings. Groups of friends visit restaurants in Turkey intending to spend the night in celebrations which include present giving. So a people in Greece play cards, hoping that a win will bring them luck for a whole year.

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