It’s Another New Year

“Happy New Year!” The greeting that will be said and heard for the next few weeks as a new year gets under way. The day celebrated as New Year’s Day in modern America was not always January 1.

The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4,000 years ago. In the years around 2,000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox. The beginning of spring was a logical time to start a new year as it is the season of rebirth. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical significance.

The Romans continued to observe the New Year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar became out of synchronization with the sun.

In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year.

New Year Traditions

  • The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to the early Babylonians. Modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or to 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.
  • Although 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 highlight 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.

For Luck in the New Year

  • 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. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the New Year in the company of friends and family.
  • Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. 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.

Auld Lang Syne

  • The song, “Auld Lang Syne,” is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year. The old Scottish tune, “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long ago,” or “the good old days.” The song asks whether old friends and ties will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness and kindness.
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