Sunday, January 1, 2012
HISTORY OF NEW YEAR'S DAY
DID YOU KNOW--Celebrating the New Year in Western Civilization for the most part is a fairly new concept; in fact getting the world to agree on what day begins the New Year has been problematic. So, what’s new? Here’s a few tidbits of conversation to consider while chipping and dipping through the myriad of footbowl games.
The earliest recording of The New Year (TNY) celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, circa 2000 BC and was feted in Mid-March around the vernal (spring) equinox.
The ancient world was a smaller neighborhood then with each block having its own whoopee day to celebrate TNY. For example, Persians, Egyptians and Phoenicians began their new year with the fall equinox and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
To simplify: Those ancients, who followed the natural order of the world, figured the new year began with the first days of spring meaning the equinox in mid-to-late March. But, the bureaucrats in early Rome were the ones, who tinkered with the calendar to make it coincide with civil service needs of the time. Again, what’s new?
The Before 700 BC, the Roman calendar listed only ten months. Latin 101 students will recognize September was named for the Latin number Septem or 7th month with Octo the eighth month; Novem, the ninth and Decem, the 10th month. Around 700 BC and between toga parties, Numa Pontilius, an early Roman King added the months January and February to the existing lunar based Roman Calendar. At that time, New Year’s Day was set as January 1 to coincide with the start of the then Roman Republic civil calendar.
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar at an early Roman press conference (no TV) introduced, the revolutionary new solar-based calendar (saving electricity). By edict, Julius Caesar made January 1 the Roman Empire’s first day of the year.
Let TNY celebrations begin.
And, party they did! In fact, by 567 AD, the Pope had had it with all the routy new year’s celebrations. He ordered the Council of Tours to sack January 1 as the New Year in favor of December 25. So much for division of church and state.
In 1582, there was another Papal calendar edict. The Gregorian calendar restored January 1 as New Year’s Day. The Catholics went for it while the Protestants weren’t keen on adopting the Gregorian calendar until 1752. Until the mid-18th century American colonies cheered the new year in mid-March. A vestige of having the New Year begin in March was evident in how we inaugurated U.S. Presidents. After 1933 when the 20th Amendment was ratified, Inauguration Day was moved to January.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled New Year’s Day activities.
Image: Google Images.