December 31, the last day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, is New Year’s Eve and, simultaneously, the seventh day of Christmastide. In many countries, the holiday is also known as Old Year’s Day or Saint Sylvester’s Day.
The earliest known record of a New Year festival dates from about 2000 bce in Mesopotamia, where in Babylonia the new year (Akitu) began with the new moon after the spring equinox (mid-March) and in Assyria with the new moon nearest the autumn equinox (mid-September). For the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians the year began with the autumn equinox (September 21), and for the early Greeks it began with the winter solstice (December 21). On the Roman republican calendar the year began on March 1, but after 153 bce the official date was January 1, which was continued in the Julian calendar of 46 bce.
In early medieval times most of Christian Europe regarded March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year, although New Year’s Day was observed on December 25 in Anglo-Saxon England. William the Conqueror decreed that the year begin on January 1, but England later joined the rest of Christendom and adopted March 25. The Gregorian calendar, adopted in 1582 by the Roman Catholic Church, restored January 1 as New Year’s Day, and most European countries gradually followed suit: Scotland, in 1660; Germany and Denmark, about 1700; England, in 1752; and Russia, in 1918.
New Year’s Eve is frequently celebrated at evening social gatherings, where many people dance, eat, drink alcoholic beverages, and watch or light fireworks to mark the new year. Some Christians attend a Watch Night service. The celebrations generally go on past midnight into New Year’s Day, 1 January.
In terms of time zones, Samoa, Tonga and Kiritimati (Christmas Island), part of the Micronesian Republic of Kiribati, are the first places to welcome the New Year, while American Samoa and Baker Island (a Pacific atoll belonging to the U.S.A., just north of the equator and about halfway between Hawaii and Australia) are among the last.
Tasks and Books
Task 1: Your 2019 Book Goals: what are they?
Task 2: 2018 Reading Year in Review. Tell us about your year in books: happy? disappointed?
Task 3: New Year’s Book Lottery: Write the names of the first 5 books you’re planning to read in 2019 onto identical pieces of paper, fold them, place them in a bowl (or bucket, jar, box, etc.), and draw one to determine the very first book you’re going to start in the new year.
Task 4: Find a bakery that sells Krapfen (German deep-fried sweet dough dumplings) or make them yourself (recipe here: https://germangirlinamerica.com/rheinische-ol-krapfen-new-year/) and enjoy with a glass of champagne or non-alcoholic bubbly drink – but first, take and post a photo of them!
Book: Read a book about endings, new starts, or any book where things go B O O M !
(Click “Read More” for the previous days’ tasks and books.)
Previous Doors’ Tasks and Books
Door 21: Kwanzaa
Task 1: “Africa” was originally the name of the Roman province originating from the North African empire of Carthage, which was mythologically founded by Queen Dido and blossomed into Ancient Rome’s only lasting opponent and nemesis (until it was finally conquered by Rome in the Punic Wars). So: who are your five favorite book heroes and their respective nemeses?
Task 2: In Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, the “Finis Africae” is the hidden center of the labyrinth which constitutes the monastery’s library, protected by a number of intricate, misdirecting devices. Tell us: Where have you recently encountered clever misdirection or a labyrinthine plot in a book?
Task 3: Tell us: If you could travel to Africa (for those living on the African continent: to a part of Africa that you don’t know yet): Where would you want to go?
Task 4: Have a meal involving vegetables (= crops) and / or corn, or another form of traditional Kwanzaa dinner. Recipe suggestions here: https://kwanzaaculinarians.com/
Book: Read a book set in Africa or the Caribbean, or by an African, Caribbean, or African-American author, or a book with a green, red, or black cover.
Door 20: Christmas
Task 1: Post a picture of your Christmas decorations.
Task 2: Tell us: If you could share Christmas dinner with any author (dead or alive), who would it be?
Task 3: Watch a favorite Christmas movie.
Task 4: Create or recreate a short text relating to Christmas (poem, carol, wish list, season’s greetings, etc.) from the titles of books on your bookshelves.
Book: Um, Christmas books …
Door 19: Festivus
Task 1: It’s the annual airing of grievances! Time to list the top 5 books that disappointed you the most this year and let us know why!
Task 2: Take a picture of your Festivus Pole (and remember this is a family site).
Task 3: Have your household scales perform a feat of strength: Place 10 of your heaviest books in a stack on your scales and tell us what their total weight comes to.
Task 4: Google the word “Festivus” and tell us or take a screenshot of what you see at the left border of the results page.
Book: Read any comedy, parody, or satire.
Door 18: Yule / Winter Solstice
Task 1: Bibliomancy: Grab one of your larger books and flip to the indicated page and line number to answer the following questions – then post those answers for us:
1. Will I rea all the books on my TBR? (page 378, line 29)
2. Will any of my 2019 reads be 5 stars?(page 227, line 31)
3. Will I discover a new favorite book / author / series? (page 309, line 23)
4. Will I discover that a major twist (hopefully, for the [even] better) has occurred in one of my favorite series? (page 459, line 16)
5. Will I finish all of my reading challenges in 2019? (page 69, line 7)
6. Will I stay within my book budget in 2019? (
page 98, line 5)
Task 2: Tell us: What book did you read this year that felt like it was never going to end?
Task 3: Round up a herd of reindeer on book covers and in book illustrations.
Task 4: Treat yourself to a bûche de Noel (French Yule log cake) – if you want to try and make it yourself, see recipe here: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/buche-de-noel-recipe.
Book: Any book that takes place in December or with ice or snow on the cover, revolving around the (summer or winter) equinox, or a collection of poetry by Hafez
Door 17: St. Lucia’s Day
Task 1: In honor of the Icelandic Jólabókaflóðið / Yule Book Flood tradition, create a (virtual or physical) “book flood” and post a picture of it.
Task 2: Bake a Swedish lussebulle (saffron bun – instructions and recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWSs-vQX0AI) or prepare some other dish containing saffron.
Task 3: Create a “crown of light” from book covers prominently featuring a lighted candle.
Task 4: Guess (scout’s honor, NO GOOGLING!): Did the Gävle Goat survive this year?
For background: The Gävle Goat is a straw effigy erected in Gävle, Sweden, every year at the beginning of Advent. It is infamous for being burned down ahead of time, which as of Advent 2017 has happened in 37 of the 51 years of the tradition’s existence. – The Yule goat lore in turn goes back all the way to the Norse myths, where the god Thor rode a chariot drawn by two goats, and to ancient Indo-European and proto-Slavic beliefs according to which the harvest god appeared in the shape of a goat. Possibly, it is also linked with Santa Claus and his reindeer-driven sled.
Book: Set in Scandinavia / Northern Europe, or by a Northern European / Nordic author, or a book newly released in November or December of this year.
Door 16: Human Rights Day
Task 1: Book hunt for human rights: Search your shelves for books with titles containing human rights words such as: hope, friendship, equality, justice, love, liberty, etc. Put them in a stack and take a picture for posting. (5 book minimum).
Task 2: This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Find 3 books on your shelves with protagonists or other key characters who are — or can reasonably be assumed to be — 70 years or older.
Task 3: The symbol of Human Rights Day is the dove, which in its incarnation as a homing pigeon is also renowned for its navigational skills. – Tell us: Did you ever get so thoroughly lost (either in the days before GPS or because GPS, for whatever reason, was of no use to you) that you wished you had a homing pigeon to guide you?
Task 4: Human Rights Day was declared by the U.N. General Assembly, whose seat is in New York City. Treat yourself to a Manhattan (classic recipe: https://www.liquor.com/recipes/manhattan-2/; virgin [non-alcoholic] recipes: https://www.anallievent.com/virgin-manhattan/, http://www.1001cocktails.com/recipes/mixed-drinks/800238/cocktail-virgin-manhattan.html and https://www.liquor.com/recipes/not-manhattan/ ) or to a bagel or pastrami sandwich and share a photo with us.
Book: Read any book with strong female characters, or written by an author from any minority group; any story about a minority overcoming their oppressors either individually or as a group. OR: A book set in New York City.
Door 15: Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas Day
Task 1: Write a book wish list to St. Nick.
Task 2: You are King / Queen for the day and can have 3 ‘wishes’: one for yourself, one for your community (any version) and one for the world: What are they?
Task 3: If your holiday family traditions should include bowls or plates filled with gingerbread, cookies, oranges / tangerines, chocolate, nuts and the like, share a photo with us!
Task 4: List your 3 favorite books involving children being rescued from serious peril.
Book: with an orange or red cover or with nuts, chocolate or coins on the cover, set in The Netherlands or Germany, by a Dutch or German author, or with canals or beer on the cover.
Door 14: Hanukkah
Task 1: Have you had any miracles in your life? (Kids are a given.) Just enough change for tolls? Just enough gas to get you to the station? Been tragically late for a flight only to find the flight was even more tragically delayed? Nothing is too small – share your miracles with us!
Task 2: Light 9 candles each representing something you’re thankful for (share a picture with us; sharing anything else is optional).
Task 3: Have a donut – and let us share it via a photo. Homemade donuts and shared recipes encouraged … but any donut will do just fine.
Task 4: A miracle crucial to Hanukkah is the Miracle of the cruse of oil, which concerns a jug of oil that (ostensibly) only contained enough oil for a single day, but miraculously turned out to last all of eight days. – Miracles aside, tell us: Have you ever experienced that something you had bought or you owned lasted a lot longer than anticipated … or where you expected a shortage which then fortuitously didn’t occur after all?
Book: Read a book about light, miracles, characters who are Jewish or books set in Israel. OR: Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the second temple in the second century; read the second book in a series or a book with the word “second” or “two” in the title.
Door 13: Advent
Task 1: Post a picture of your advent calendar – store bought or homemade.
Task 2: The holidays season is in full swing – tell us: What’s your favorite tradition?
Task 3: The tradition of carol singing in the Advent / holiday season is linked to the old Anglo-Saxon (and medieval) custom of wassailing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassailing). Prepare an apple cider wassail bowl or a wassail bowl containing your favorite drink or fruit. Post a picture and enjoy!
Task 4: Make your own Advent wreath and share a picture of it. Instructions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWw83CCa2cg
Book: Advent also means “second coming”: Read a pastiche, or a book written by an “authorised author” by the deceased author’s estate. OR: There are four Sundays in Advent. Read the fourth book of a series or a book with the word “four” in the title.
Door 12: St. Andrew’s Day
Task 1: Nominate someone for sainthood. Who? Why?
Task 2: St Andrew is revered in many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, where he worked as a Christian missionary, long before his relics were brought to Scotland in the eighth century. – Tell us: Is there a book (regardless whether fiction or nonfiction) for which you would basically walk up to strangers and tell them: “Read this!”? What would you say and do to get people to read that particular book?
Task 3: Legend has it that the saltire or St. Andrew’s cross (white on an azure background) – which constitutes the national flag of Scotland – originated as a cloud formation, symbolizing St. Andrew’s being crucified on an X-shaped cross rather than an upright one. Do you have any pictures of unusual cloud formations? If so, share them with us!
Task 4: The town of St. Andrews, where the saint’s bones ended up in the course of the spread of Christianity to Scotland, is also famous for its golf course and tournament. List your 3 favorite books where golf is key to the plot.
Book: Andrew was the first apostle; read the first book in a series. OR: Andrew and Peter were brothers; read a book about brothers. OR: Read books about or set in Scotland or by a Scottish author, or set in Charleston, South Carolina (which is where the celebrations as we know them today began – by a group of Scottish expats – according to scotland.org).
Door 11: Russian Mother’s Day
Task 1: Tell us: What is the mother of all writerly sins in your book (tropes, grammar mistakes, telling instead of showing, etc.)?
Task 2: Do you have a favorite Mothers’ Day memory that you are happy to share? Photos welcome but optional.
Task 3: Perhaps the best-known scene in the James Bond novel and film From Russia With Love is 007 being poisoned by Russian agent Rosa Klebb with a venom-laced blade hidden in her shoe. Tell us: Have you ever owned any particular / outrageous / funny / best-beloved or otherwise special pair of shoes? Post a photo if you should still own them.
Task 4: Make a traditional Russian dish like borscht, blintzes, pirogi or solyanka soup, and share a picture with us. Find recipe suggestions here: https://www.expatica.com/ru/about/Top-10-Russian-foods-and-recipes_108678.html
Book: Read a book set in Russia, or involving a story within a story / play within a play (like the Russian matryoshka dolls stuck inside each other), or where a key character (not necessarily the protagonist) is a mother.
Door 10: Bon om Touk
Task 1: Make a paper boat and post a picture of it. Instructions, if needed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiAWx8odStA
Task 2: If you’ve ever attended a procession or an event involving festively decked out boats, post a picture and tell us about it.
Task 3: Bon Om Touk celebrates the end of the rainy season. Tell us: What’s your favorite type of rainy day book – and do you have a favorite drink or snack to go with your rainy day reading? Photos welcome!
Task 4: Which are your 3 favorite books where a key character is “moonlighting”?
Book: Read a book that takes place at sea or on a river OR with water on the cover OR where the plot involves a festival or the moon plays a pivotal role in the plot.
Door 9: Thanksgiving
Task 1: List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.
Task 2: Describe your perfect meal. What would you cook for the perfect celebration, or, what would you have your imaginary personal chef cook for you?
Task 3: Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.
Task 4: Show us your 2018 book “harvest” – the books you newly acquired this year, regardless whether bought, received as gift or in whichever other way.
Book: Autumnal covers, set in New England, or a turkey shows up in the story.
Door 8: Penance Day
Task 1: “Confess” your book habits. Dog-earring? Laying books face down? Bending back the spines? Skimming? OR: Confess your guilty reading pleasure, or comfort reads.
Task 2: It’s “Pennants” day according to MbD’s husband: post a picture of your favorite team’s logo/mascot and the last time they’ve won a championship (or not).
Task 3: In centuries gone by, penance would often end up in what might be described as a very extended bad hair day (complete with sackcloth and ashes). Tell us: What’s a bad hair day to you – and what (if anything) do you do about it?
Task 4: Early Christian spiritualists would sometimes do penance by spending time in the desert. If you’ve ever visited a desert region (or even live there), post a picture and tell us about it. Alternatively, post a picture of sand dunes (NOT with water in the background!).
Book: Read any book concerning a man / woman of the cloth, a book about a character hiding a guilty secret or searching for absolution.
Door 7: Mawlid
Task 1: Make two “prophesies” you think will come to fruition in 2019 in your personal or reading life.
Task 2: The Five Pillars of Islam include almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mekka. Tell us: Have you ever donated books or rescued them from (horror of horrors) being trashed? Alternatively: Is there a book-related place that is a place of pilgrimage to you?
Task 3: Prophets are messengers. Tell us: Which book characters are your favorite messengers (no matter whether humans, angels, (demi)gods, etc.)?
Task 4: Muhammad was a merchant before becoming a religious leader. List 5 books on your shelves in which a key character makes / undergoes a radical career change.
Book: If you can find a copy, read Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Or read any book about a leader of a movement, nation, religion or large group, OR read a book with a green cover OR with a half moon on the cover.
Door 6: International Day of Tolerance
Task 1: Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.
Task 2: Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you? (Insta-love? Love triangles? First person present narrative voice? Talking animals? The dog dies? What else?)
Task 3: The International Day for Tolerance is a holiday declared by an international organization (UNESCO). Create a charter (humorous, serious, whatever strikes your fancy) for an international organization of readers.
Task 4: UNESCO is based in Paris. Paris is known for its pastries and its breads: Either find a baker that specializes in pastries and bring home an assortment for your family, or make your own pastries using real butter and share a photo with us.
Book: Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone. (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.
Door 5: Veterans’ / Armistice Day
Task 1: Using book covers (real or virtual), create a close approximation of your country’s flag (either of residence or birth), OR a close approximation of a poppy. Take a pic of your efforts and post.
Task 2: Make an offer of peace (letter, gift, whatever) to a book character who has particularly annoyed you this year.
Task 3: Tell us: What author’s books would you consider yourself a veteran of (i.e., by which author have you read particularly many books – or maybe even all of them)?
Task 4: Treat yourself to a slice of seedcake and post a photo. If you want to make it yourself, try out this recipe: https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/poppy-seed-cake/ … or this one: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1629633/lemon-and-poppy-seed-cake
Book: Read any book involving wars, battles, where characters are active military or veterans, or with poppies on the cover.
Door 4: Diwali
Task 1: Share a picture of your favorite light display.
Task 2: Cleaning is a big part of this holiday; choose one of your shelves, real or virtual, and tidy / organise it. Give us the before and after photos. OR Tidy up 5 of the books on your BookLikes shelves by adding the CORRECT cover, and/or any other missing information. (If in doubt, see here: http://jenn.booklikes.com/post/1782687/state-of-the-database-booklikes-database-halloween-bingo-and-a-mini-rant-with-pictures).
Task 3: Eating sweets is also a big part of Diwali. Either select a recipe for a traditional sweet, or make a family favorite and share a picture with us.
Task 4: During Diwali, people pray to the goddess Lakhshmi, who is typically depicted as a beautiful young woman holding a lotus flower. Find 5 books on your shelves (either physical or virtual) whose covers show a young woman holding a flower and share their cover images.
Book: Read a book with candles on the cover or the word “candle” or “light” in the title; OR a book that is the latest in a series; OR set in India; OR any non-fiction book that is ‘illuminating’ (Diwali is Sanskrit for light/knowledge and row, line or series)
Door 3: Melbourne Cup Day
Task 1: Pick your ponies! MbD has posted the horses scheduled to race; everyone picks the three they think will finish (in any order).
Task 2: Cup day is all about the hats. Post a picture of your favorite hat, whether it’s one you own or not.
Task 3: The coloring of the “horse of a different color” in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz was created by rubbing the horse’s fur with jello. What’s the weirdest use of jello you’ve ever come across?
Task 4: Have you ever been to or participated in a competition involving horses (racing, jumping, dressage, whatever)? Tell us about it. Photos welcome, too!
Book: about horses or a horse on the cover. Books with roses on the cover or about gardening; anything set in Australia.
Door 2: Guy Fawkes Night
Task 1: Burn a book in effigy. Not that anyone of us would do such a thing, but if you HAD to, which book would be the one you’d sacrifice to the flames (gleefully or not)?
Task 2: List your top 3 treasonous crimes against books. Not ones you’ve committed, but the ones you think are the worst.
Task 3: Share your favorite / most memorable BBQ recollections or recipe, or your favorite recipe of food “flambé” (i.e., doused with alcohol which is then set aflame and allowed to burn off).
Task 4: Find 5 uses of the word “gunpowder” in book titles in contexts other than for blowing up things or shooting people (e.g., Gunpowder Green by Laura Childs = tea).
Book: Set in the UK, political thrillers, involving any monarchy or revolution; books about arson or related to burning.
Door 1: Día de los Muertos
Task 1: Write a silly poem or limerick poking fun at the fiction character of your choice.
Task 2: Share your favorite gravestone epitaph (you know you have one).
Task 3: Create an altar (either digital or physical) for your favorite book, series, or book character, and post a picture of it. Inclusion of book cover encouraged.
Task 4: If you like Mexican food, treat yourself to your favorite dish and share a photo of it.
Book: Re-read an old favorite from a now-deceased author, a book from a finished (dead) series, or a book set in Mexico.