ways to ring in the new
keep the resolve
Fun ways to ring in the new
Hungarians celebrate New Year’s Day by letting loose a pig in the house, while Tibetans make sure the house is not swept clean. D.C. Sharma on how different cultures usher in the new year.
NEW Year is celebrated in a number of ways around the globe. In China, the New Year celebrations are marked with fireworks and masked dances. Such celebrations symbolise that the dead and the living people are like the old and new years.
In Hungary, a pig is let loose in the house on New Year, and whosoever can manage to touch its tail is considered to be the luckiest person on earth. They call this celebration Silvester Night.
The Tibetans do not sweep or clean their houses on the first day of the new year. They think that throwing something out of the house on this day may make one lose something during the year.
In Scotland, the first person to cross the threshold of the house on New Year is called the "first footer." He is welcomed with open arms. If he happens to be a black-haired person, he is supposed to bring good luck to the house. If he brings sweets or drink, he is supposed to bring good luck to the inhabitants of the house.
The Japanese celebrate New Year’s Day by wearing new clothes. They decorate their houses with pine branches and fresh bamboo. To them, these are symbolic of a long, happy and prosperous life.
New Year does not fall on the same day for all communities and races. Parsis treat March 21 as New Year’s Day. Since Emperor Jamshed was the ruler of Persia when such celebrations were started, their New Year is also known as Jamshed Navroz.
In North India, the first day of Chaitra (the first month of desi calendar) is considered New Year’s Day.
Gujarat, a state dominated by businessmen, begins its new year with Divali. The worship of Goddess Lakshmi marks the beginning of the year for Gujaratis.
The Chinese and Indonesians celebrate New Year on two days. While the Chinese celebrate January 1 and another day according to their lunar calendar, the Indonesians celebrate January 1 as the official New Year and hold another celebration on the Islamic New Year Day.
The Greeks begin their new year with the new moon after June 21. The Roman New Year started on March 1 before the time of Julius Caesar. During the middle ages, the new year began on March 25 in most European countries.
During the ancient and medieval times, March 25 used to be New Year’s Day even in England. During the Anglo-Saxons’ rule in England, the Christmas day was taken as New Year’s Day. It was the Gregorian calendar which shifted New Year’s Day to January 1. This calendar was framed during the period of Pope Gregory XIII in the late 16th century. France and the Netherlands adopted this calendar in December 1582, the Catholic state of Germany in 1584, Poland in 1586, the Protestant churches of Germany and Switzerland in 1700, and England and its colonies and Sweden adopted it in 1752.
January was named after Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. As every door faces two ways, so Janus is commonly shown with two heads — one facing forward and the other facing backwards. So appears the beginning of January as it has the new year on its front and the old year on its back.
The Romans prayed to Janus before beginning any important work. There seems to be an amazing similarity between the sanctity attached to Janus and our Hindu god, Ganesha. This elephant-headed god is also worshipped before starting any important work.
Just as the Romans prayed to Janus before commencing any important work, even before they seek the blessings of Jupiter, the god of gods, the Hindus too worship Lord Ganesha even before bowing to the mighty Shiva.
It is believed that the Roman calendar had only 10 months in 700 BC. It was the ruler Numa Pompitius who added January and February at the end of this calendar. He had made these months of 30 days each. But the Romans shifted January and February to the beginning of this calendar.
In 46 BC, Roman statesman Julius Ceasar made January of 31 days and February of 28 days (with the latter comprising 29 days during the leap years). The Anglo-Saxons also called January the wolf month as wolves entered villages in search of food during this cold month.
New Year celebrations have also led to additions in the English vocabulary. The expression "pin-money" originated from the customary New Year celebrations in England. Earlier, pins were made with hand and involved a lot of labour.
They were very expensive as well. On New Year’s Eve, husbands would give their wives money to buy enough decoration pins to last them for the whole year. Thus was coined "pin-money".
keep the resolve
IT is just the first day of the new year. Are you already angry with yourself for breaking your resolutions? Don’t worry, if your resolve dissolved, you’re not alone. Considerable research has been done on New Year resolutions by many universities in Europe and the USA.
It was found that the most common New Year resolutions were: lose weight; stop smoking; stick to a budget; save or earn more money; find a better job; become more organized; exercise more; be more patient at work/with others; and eat better.
In Duke University of the USA, psychologists tried to analyse the attitude of individuals making resolutions. They found that in almost all cases, the habits we try to change resurface frequently, making it difficult for us to implement our decisions. For instance, despite deciding to eat fewer sweets, at the back of our mind remains the desire to eat just one chocolate `E9clair.
So does this mean that we just give up? No! "Changing may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it," the researchers explains. To disarm undesirable attitudes, they suggest, that we "break the cycle of behaviour first." To change an attitude towards food, for example, start by altering eating habits. "If we find ourselves eating healthy food, we might eventually conclude that we like it," the psychologists say. Since chocolate eclairs taste much better than broccoli, realising that we still like broccoli may give our resolution a fighting chance.
Then again you have to choose personal projects that have meaning for you. They have to embody your values, resonate with your identity, hold some enjoyment for you. Then you have to focus on making the change manageable.
In the language of motivation, these steps are called implementation intentions. As such pick realistic goals, define those goals, set a schedule, don’t be upset by setbacks, and enlist additional help or support. It was also apparent that if one was going in for a New Year resolution, one was more likely to keep it if one had shared it with someone else.
For example did you make a New Year resolution to get your personal finances in order? Add it up. Most financial planners advise tracking just where your money goes. Fund your goals. Decide first on your goals: paying off debt, saving for retirement, or creating a college fund. Set up an online account with automatic bill paying, and set aside money from your account for each goal, instructing the bank to make automatic payments. Starve the card. Try going a week without using a credit card. Leave room for rewards. As with any type of behaviour modification, the idea is to feel satisfied under your new regime.
The sad part of the research
revealed`85well`85 that the majority of people break their healthy
resolutions six to seven days into the new year. Psychologists also found
that most of the resolutions are given the go by January 24. But five per
cent succeeded in keeping up their resolutions and it can be you. — MF
You are being watched
Britain will be the first country where every journey by every car will be monitored, reports Steve Connor
FROM this year, Britain will become the first country in the world where the movements of system will hold the records for at least two years.
Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.
The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.
By March, a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.
Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.
Senior police officers have described the surveillance network as possibly the biggest advance in the technology of crime detection and prevention since the introduction of DNA fingerprinting.
But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried that the movements of millions of law-abiding people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer database for many years.
The new national data centre of vehicle movements will form the basis of a sophisticated surveillance tool that lies at the heart of an operation designed to drive criminals off the road.
In the process, the data centre will provide unrivalled opportunities to gather intelligence data on the movements and associations of organised gangs and terrorist suspects whenever they use cars, vans or motorcycles.
The scheme is being orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and has the full backing of ministers who have sanctioned the spending of `A324m this year on equipment.
More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to allow the police to convert thousands of existing traffic cameras so they can read number plates automatically. The data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure police communications network.
Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering agreements with the Highways Agency, supermarkets and petrol station owners to incorporate their own CCTV cameras into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number plate against stolen and suspect vehicles held on the Police National Computer, the national data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed, insured and has a valid Mot test certificate.
"Every time you make a car journey already, you’ll be on CCTV somewhere. The difference is that, in future, the car’s index plates will be read as well," said Frank Whiteley, the chief constable of Hertfordshire Police and the chairman of the Acpo steering committee on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).
"What the data centre should be able to tell you is where a vehicle was in the past and where it is now, whether it was or wasn’t at a particular location, and the routes taken to and from those crime scenes. Particularly important are associated vehicles," Whiteley said.
The term "associated vehicles" means analysing convoys of cars, vans or trucks to see who is driving alongside a vehicle that is already known to be of interest to the police. Criminals, for instance, will drive somewhere in a lawful vehicle, steal a car and then drive back in convoy to commit further crimes. "You’re not necessarily interested in the stolen vehicle. You’re interested in what’s moving with the stolen vehicle," Whiteley explained.
According to a strategy document drawn up by Acpo, the national data centre in Hendon will be at the heart of a surveillance operation that should deny criminals the use of the roads.
"The intention is to create a comprehensive ANPR camera and reader infrastructure across the country to stop displacement of crime from area to area and to allow a comprehensive picture of vehicle movements to be captured," the ACPO strategy says.
"This development forms the basis of a 24/7 vehicle movement database that will revolutionise arrest, intelligence and crime investigation opportunities on a national basis," it says.
Whiteley said that MI5 will also use the database. "Clearly there are values for this in counter-terrorism," he said. "The security services will use it for purposes that I frankly don’t have access to. It’s part of public protection. If the security services did not have access to this, we’d be negligent," he said.
— By arrangement with The Independent
Ah, what a wedding!
Getting hitched for life is no more a simple affair. Today, for the rich and socially mobile in India, wedding is the perfect time to show off their monetary clout, says Anju Munshi
GETTING married? Welcome to this latest commercial enterprise called wedding where you get married according to a theme. You could be getting married in a Roman ambience or in the midst of a romantic Paris landscape, or even in a castle with appropriate dress, headgear, food, etc, to match. The elaborate setting is supposed to create an aura conducive to a lasting and eternally joyful alliance between the duo.
The name given to such
enterprises is ‘traditional weddings’ but are they really that?
Thus was a tradition born that continues even now but with a difference. Today, there is no butler and an envelope introduces and tends to reflect the colours or theme of the wedding. At times it does not look like a traditional invitation card at all. It looks like a flashy scroll with a 24-carat gold embossed border or a Tanjore painting or even something as ornamental as a papier-m`E2ch`E9 jewellery box studded with precious stones. Perhaps it’s meant to be cherished and preserved for posterity. One thing that remains constant, however, is the stoic Ganesha on the cover of the card.
For the bride, it has now become a ritual to go for the pre-bridal package with 12 sittings that start two months prior to the big day and culminates with the wedding- day make-up and draping of the saree.
The parlours are raking in all that lolly with this new way of making the bride look her best. Whether they actually succeed in giving her a fresh look is debatable but they do succeed in making her feel nervous about her looks. For, they are constantly putting pressure on her that she has to look her best on the wedding. Where henna application is concerned, the orient takes over.
At present, fish motifs and other Fengshui symbols are popular.
Henna has also become a versatile wedding statement. Henna application is now no longer restricted to hands and feet. It covers the arms, the waist and also the naval.
Some even apply it on the back in the form of tattoos. For ‘tattoo mehndi’, henna is used with colour and glitter. Exorbitant cost, of course, does not matter. It’s the coordinated look that counts.
While it is commonplace for brides to want to look stunning on their wedding day, the grooms too don’t want to be left behind.
They too are moving beyond the basics of shaving and passing a comb through their hair and embracing a range of more sophisticated personal grooming techniques. For guys, the wedding is one occasion when they just have to drop the Armani and Versace suits and go for ethnic outfits.
As for the women invitees,
more often than not, traditional sarees have given way to fish-cut lehengas,
crepe sarees and blouses with cuts that vary from the halter to the knotted
back, spaghettis, bustiers, etc.
Selecting a mandap has always been an important decision in planning a wedding. Today, the so-called wedding canopy is a reflection of the couple’s taste and style. Now you can hire a wedding planner who will ensure that the wedding is clinical in all aspects, neat to the hilt.
These professionals begin from
the word go — they choose the locations for the ceremony and reception,
handle caterers and menus, order cakes and flowers, arrange the DJs and
possibly some star presence, too. Anything to get the stamp of ‘Ah, what a
wedding!’ — TWF