“Happy New Year!” The traditional greeting often spoken as a new year begins come January. As you send out your New Year’s cards, consider the history of the holiday. New Year’s Day was not always January 1. The start of spring seems like a logical time to start a new year right? After all, it is the season of rebirth, planting new crops, and of blossoming. So how did January 1 become the start of the new year? It has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. . The story begins about 4000 years ago…
Ancient New Years
- The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first visible crescent moon, after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, modern New Year’s Eve festivities pale in comparison.
- New Year celebrations in Mesopotamia around 2000 years was celebrated at the time of Equinox. It was celebrated in mid-March by the Egyptians, Persians and Phoenicians while Greeks celebrated it on winter solstice. As per the ancient Roman calendar New Year fell on March 1. This calendar just had ten months and March was the first month of the year. The calendar originated by the cycles of the moon, beginning in spring and ending with autumn planting.
- It was Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome who divided the year into twelve lunar months by adding the months of January and February. The New Year was shifted to January as it marked the beginning of the civil years in Rome. But this was not fully accepted by the people of Rome and they continued celebrating in the month of March only.
January 1- an Official Date of New Year Celebrations
- The Roman emperor Julius Caesar officially declared January 1 to be a New Year in 46 B.C. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days. Romans worshiped God Janus who had two faces, one looking forward and the other looking backward. The month of January was named after Janus. It is said Caesar celebrated the January 1 – New Year by ordering the revolutionary Jewish forces to route back.
The, Churchs, View of New Year Celebrations,
- Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the new year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations, and New Year’s Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision by some denominations.
- During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Years. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.
New Year’s Traditions
- One of the long standing tradition of new years includes making New Year’s resolutions. Making resolutions also dates back to the early Babylonians. Some of the most popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian’s most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.
- The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California.
- The Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902. It was replaced by Roman chariot races the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports centerpiece of the festival.
- The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.
- “Auld Lang Syne,” is the traditional song playing and being sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700′s, it was first published in 1796 after Burns’ death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scottish tune, “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”
- Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. Surrounding yourself with friends and family at parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year is common place to ring in the new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year’s Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. If the first, visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man, it was considered particularly lucky.
- There are few traditional foods consumed on New Years Day in many parts of the U.S. Black-eyed peas hog, jowls, and ham are often served together. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is considered a good luck vegetable. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is, another lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day.
- Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune
May the new year bring you peace and prosperity. Enjoy your celebration!