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January 1 Becomes New Year's Day
The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible cresent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).
The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox; according to tradition, it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. A later king, Numa Pompilius, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius. Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today.
As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation); Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.
Traditionally, it was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends.
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity.
Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.
Favorite New Year Resolutions for 2013:
- 1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends
- 2. Fit in Fitness
- 3. Tame the Bulge
- 4. Quit Smoking
- 5. Enjoy Life More
- 6. Quit Drinking
- 7. Get Out of Debt
- 8. Learn Something New
- 9. Help Others
- 10. Get Organized
Chances are, as you begin the new year, you'll still be dealing with the same stuff you were dealing with in December. While we can't wipe the slate completely clean and start over, we can resolve to become better. Thinner. Healthier. Kinder. More giving....compassionate. It's never too late to get rid of our bad habits and replace them with good ones. And what better time than at the start of a brand new year?
The old year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The new year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months! - Edward Payson Powell