The world-wide tradition of New Years Day

Every country indulges in some form of annual celebrations from partying to giant bonfires. The passing of time is an inevitable occurrence and one that cannot be controlled, so many choose to embrace times passage and celebrate the end of one and the beginning of another.

Four thousand years ago the Babylonians lived in what is now modern day Iraq. The history of New Years Day can be traced back to this time. The Babylonians originally celebrated the time of the new moon which usually occurred around the middle of March. This would make since especially as springtime is associated with the renewal of life by way of rebirth with the flowering of plants and the planting of crops. The Babylonians celebrations lasted over a week with about eleven days, each having a different celebratory theme.

The history of New Year’s Day deepens as celebrations carried on into Rome, however, various emperors of the Roman Empire tampered with the calendar to the point where the passing of time was no longer in sequence with the moon. In an effort to counteract this in 153 B.C. the Roman Senate decided to have the beginning of a new series of months coincide with their elections of officials, thus instating January first as the starting point. However, this was not recognized by all, and the first of January did not become the official date until 46 B. C. when Julius Caesar of Rome instated the Julian calendar.

The month of January was so named after the Roman god Janus, thus instilling the history of New Years Day with mythology. Janus was the god of open doors and doorways, and because of that Julius Caesar decided that would be an apt way of seeing the passing of time, as stepping out of one doorway and through another. Janus is also depicted as having two heads, one is said to look forwards, while the other looks backwards, again symbolizing the act of going from the past to the future.

Most of the current world celebrates the holiday along with the arrival of January, but not everyone acknowledges the same date, since different calendars are used. For example, the Chinese have their celebrations at some point between January seventeenth and February nineteenth, depending on their moon phases, and celebrate Yuan Tan. Jews in Israel celebrate the Rosh Hashanah at some point in September.

The history of New Years Day reveals that commonly, all parts of the world use the holiday as an excuse for celebration, occasionally in unique ways. People in London listen for the ringing of Big Ben’s chimes, the Dutch burn Christmas trees in giant bonfires, while people in Spain wait for the stroke of midnight and then consume twelve grapes to ensure that the next twelve months are bountiful.

The act of making resolutions for the upcoming months also dates back to the Babylonians. The most common resolutions usually involve weight loss, the discontinuation of bad habits and career goals

The holiday has roots deep in mythology, as can be seen by the common symbols associated with the date.

The Romans held to the belief that a baby in a basket represented fertility as the rebirth of Dionysus, the god of wine. The representation of a newborn babe as a symbol of renewal continued with Christianity. At first Christians rejected the symbolism considering the pagan roots. However, they were forced to accept the idea taking into consideration that the birth of Jesus occurs close to the end of a period of months thus, the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus is acknowledged at that time.

Baby New Year origins have carried through the centuries, with the baby currently depicted as a slightly older newborn boy adorned in a diaper, top hat and sash imprinted with the date of the upcoming year.

The baby grows up quickly as by the end of the year he has grown into the old man, Father Time. Father time is meant to represent time past in a personified form. He is depicted as an old man with a long beard. He carries in his hand an hourglass, obviously a device for measuring the passage of time. Traditionally at the end of twelve months, Father Time passes the hourglass onto a baby, representing the relinquishing of the responsibility from the past to the future.

Baby New Year origins are celebrated by the fact that many hospitals award prizes to the first babies born in a new year.

Commonly the birth of the first baby of a New Year is acknowledged in a local newspaper and dubbed an official Baby New Year.

From ChristiaNet, Inc. The Worldwide Christian Community