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Why is January 1 the Beginning of a New Year?

Updated on December 30, 2009

Happy New Year To You and Yours!

It's another new year, but why?

“Happy New Year!” A simple greeting that will be voiced and heard throughout the first few weeks as the new year gets underway. But, January 1 was not always celebrated as New Year's Day in America.

The new year's celebration is the oldest of all holidays. About 4,000 years ago, ancient Babylon first observed the beginning of a new year. Around, 2,000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began on the first New Moon (the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox, or the first day of spring. The new year celebration lasted for eleven days, and each day had its own type of celebration.

Actually, Spring is a logical time to begin a new year. It is the time of rebirth, planting new crops, and blossoming regrowth. However, January 1, has no astronomical or agricultural significance, it's purely arbitrary.

Along with celebrations, comes the traditional New Year's resolutions. This tradition, also dates back to the Babylonian time frame. The most popular Babylonian resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment. But, today, losing weight seems to be very popular.

The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. At that time, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers to celebrate the ripening of the California orange crop. The first Rose Bowl football game was actually played as part of the Tournament of Roses celebration in 1902.

In Greece, around 600 BC, it was traditional to use a baby to signify the beginning of a new year. The baby would be paraded around in a basket, to represent the rebirth of the god of wine, Dionysus (the spirit of fertility).

The image of a baby with a New Years banner was brought to America by the Germans; which was used since the fourteenth century in Germany.

For many years, it was believed that what a person ate or did on the first day of the year could affect the luck they would realize throughout the new year. For this reason, it is common for folks to celebrate the new year surrounded by friends and family. It was also believed the first visitor, on New Year's Day, would bring either good or bad luck to the new year. And, if the visitor just happened to be a tall dark-haired male, it was considered to be particularly lucky.

Many cultures believe that items in the shape of a circle is good luck, as it symbolizes the “coming full circle.” For this reason, eating donuts on New year's Day is believed to bring good fortune by the Dutch.

Some parts of the U.S. Celebrate the new year by serving black-eyed peas. Often, the peas are served with hog jowls or ham, and considered to be good luck. The hog is considered lucky (well, the hog didn't exactly have good luck!) because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is is considered, by some, to be a sign of prosperity and good luck.

Countries that use the Georgian calendar, new year begins on January 1st. However, th e Roman calendar began on March 1st, but it was in the eleventh month (January) when the counsels of ancient Roman attained government.

Then, along came Julius Caesar, in 47 B.C. He changed the system and renamed it to the Julian calendar.. But, that wasn't the end of the story, it was changed again in 44 B.C. By Mark Antony, by emperor Augustus Caesar, in 8 B.C., and finally, Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582, changed the calendar to its present day form.

As the Western culture expanded throughout the rest of the world in the twentieth century, the January 1 date has become universal in nature. Although China and India have their own New Year celebrations, they, too, use January 1 to designate a new year.

Along with the celebrations and hoopla to officially recognize the beginning of a new year, come traditions and superstitions. According to the Christian tradition, January 1 coincides with the circumcision of Christ (eight days after birth). Honey is a Jewish tradition used to symbolize a sweet new year, known as Rosh Hashana. Traditionally, the new year meal includes apple slices dipped in honey and eaten while blessings are recited for a good, sweet new year. In some congregations, small straws or honey are provided to usher in the new year.


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    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Interesting hub!!