Sunday, December 30, 2007
History of the New Year
I ran across this interesting little article today by Borgna Brunner and I thought I would share it.
The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
Early Roman Calendar: March 1st rings in the New Year
The early Roman calendar designated March 1st as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with themonth of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelth months (septem is Latin for "seven", octo is "eight", novem is "nine", and decem "ten').
January Joins the Calendar
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second King of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February). The new year was moved from March to Janaury because that was the beginning of of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls--the hightest officials in the Roman Republic--began their one year tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1st.
Julian Calendar: January 1st Officially Instituted as the New Year
In 46 B.C. Julius Ceaser introduced a new, solar based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildely inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1st, and within the Roman world, January 1st become the consistently observed start of the new year.
Middle Ages: January 1st is Abolished
In medieval Europe, however the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and unchristian and in 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1st as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout the medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on December 25th, the birth of Jesus; March 1st; March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter.
Gregorian Calendar: January 1st Restored
In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored Janaury 1st as the official start of the new year. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire--and their American colonies--still celebrated the new year in March.
So here is the history of why we celebrate New Years' Day on January...cheers to 2008!!!