Ancient Babylonians first celebrated the New Year about 4,000 years ago, but not on the first of January. Instead the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon after the first day of spring or the middle of March. The Babylonian New Year’s celebration lasted for eleven days, with each day having its unique celebration.
The Romans continued the custom of observing the New Year in March, but several of their emperors adjusted the calendar so vigorously that it fell out of synchronization with the sun. In 153 B.C., the Roman senate decreed that January 1 was the beginning of the New Year. This didn’t discourage the emperors from calendar tampering. They continued to adjust the calendar until in 46 BC, Julius Caesar, established the Julian calendar which again denoted January 1 as the New Year. In order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to extend the previous year to 445 days.
The Church and the New Year
Although the Romans continued celebrating the New Year into the first centuries AD, the early Catholic Church decreed that New Year’s festivities were pagan. As Christianity became more widespread, the church held its own religious observances alongside many of the pagan celebrations. The Church continued to oppose celebrating New Year’s into the Middle Ages, and finally on February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree introducing the Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar and Christian calendar. Western countries now officially celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1.
The New Year’s Baby
In Greece around 600 BC, the celebration of Dionysus, the god of wine, created the tradition of using a baby to symbolize the New Year. Revelers would honor Dionysus by parading a baby in a basket to represent his annual rebirth as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby to represent rebirth.
The early Christian Church denounced the New Year’s baby as a pagan symbol, but ordinary people interpreted the baby as a symbol of rebirth and renewal. The New Year’s baby continued grow in popularity and eventually the church reconsidered its position. The Church finally allowed Christians to celebrate the New Year with a baby, but it firmly declared the baby symbolized the birth of the Baby Jesus, not the Baby New Year.
German immigrants brought the image of a baby with a New Year’s banner representing the New Year to America. They had used this symbol since the fourteenth century and introduced the custom to their new neighbors.
Celebrating New Year’s Traditions
During the 500 years of celebrating the New Year on January 1, many New Year traditions have evolved, including spending New Year’s Eve with family and friends, eating traditional New Year foods, and making New Year’s resolutions.
New Year’s lore has it that a person had shape his or her luck for the next year by eating carefully on the first day of the year. The custom of welcoming in the New Year with family and friends coincides with eating and drinking, New Year’s Eve parties often last all night.
Another New Year’s tradition says that the first visitor on New Year’s Day brings either good or bad luck for the rest of the year. If the first New Year’s Day visitor happens to be a tall, dark haired man, the year will be filled with good fortune.
People eat traditional New Year’s foods to bring good luck in the year ahead. In some cultures, ring shaped objects are considered to bring good luck because the ring symbolizes a full circle, or completing a year’s cycle. The Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day brings good luck.
In some parts of the United States, Americans eat black eyed peas and either hog jowls or ham to welcome in the New Year. People think that peas and other legumes bring good luck and ham is considered to be lucky because it denotes prosperity. Other people eat cabbage on New Year’s Day because cabbage leaves represent paper currency and are a sign of prosperity. In some parts of America, rice is considered to be the lucky food to eat on New Year’s Day.
Learn More: historybecauseitshere.com
Click Here To Submit A News Tip Or Story