Meta: A look at the history behind New Years.
New Years can really be summed up as the beginning of a new chapter, or a day long recovery from the night before. In modern times we generally spend New Year’s Eve with loved ones, close friends or at some kind of event, waiting for the countdown to midnight and the fireworks parade that brings in new possibilities or kick starts our resolutions, but we wanted to find out what the ancient New Year traditions were and where they came from.
The first New Year’s celebrations stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ancient Babylon; their New Year began within the month of March when the new moon appeared after the verval equinox – in simpler terms, a day, which has the exact same amount of daylight hours and nighttime hours. This festival ran for 11 days and was known as Akitu, Akitu held several purposes apart from signifying the beginning of the new year, it also observed the feat of their deity Murdak, the sky god over the malicious sea goddess Tiamat. Furthermore, during the festival of Akitu a new kind could be instated, or the current kings’ divine right to rule would be reaffirmed.
Throughout history the dawning of the New Year coincided with a major event in that country’s environment, an example would be ancient Egypt, where the beginning of a New Year would be heralded by the flooding of the Nile River and in China, the coming of the New Year would be shown by the appearance of the second new moon after the winter solstice had occurred. However, a key issue that emerged within ancient times, particularly in Rome is that the calendars tended to deviate from the movements of the astrological system. Therefore, when Julius Caeser rose to power, he decided to thwart this issue by consulting the top mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists of his time, hoping to devise a calendar that would accurately follow the movements of the sun.
They achieved this in 46 B.C. by adding 46 days to their current calendar; the Julian calendar is very much alike to the one we use today. Julius Caeser decided that January the 1st would be the official date of the New Year for the Roman people. Romans decided to go all out for their New Year celebrations by offering sacrifices to the god of that month – Janus, giving gifts to close friends and family, placing laurel wreaths throughout their homes in order to bring good fortune and, of course, decided to throw fabulous parties. However, when the Catholic Church came into power it was decided that rather than having January the 1st as New Year it would be more suitable to have days of religious significance as the New Year, one such example would be the 25th of December. But Pope Gregory XIII in 1852 decided that January the 1st should be reinstated as the official date for New Years.
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