New Year celebrated worldwide

Published 12:59 am Sunday, December 27, 2009

Now that Christmas has passed we can look forward to New Year’s. Let me be one of the first to say “Happy New Year!” I hope that each of you takes some time to reflect on 2009 and remember the good times and the bad so we can move into 2010 with a positive outlook on life.

Have you ever wondered how we came up with the 12-month calendar and why we decided to call January the first month instead of March or April? Here is the reasoning and some brief history of New Year’s Day.

Q. What is the history about the first New Year?

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Nearly every holiday in America has a clear and understood past. The majority originated from religious connection; Christmas, Easter, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Some are patriotic memorials such as the Fourth of July, Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day. And some are born from man’s goodwill like Thanksgiving.

New Year’s on the other hand has no religious or patriotic significance yet it has grown to become one of America’s most significant holidays, in addition it is one of a very few holidays celebrated and respected worldwide.

New Year’s is however one of the oldest holidays celebrated. Approximately 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon, New Year’s was celebrated after the first visible crest of the new moon after the Vernal Equinox, this often the first day of spring. When you think about it perhaps this is when the new year should begin? It is the season of rebirth, planting new crops, flourishing new growth of last year’s plants, and everything seems to naturally start over in the spring. We even like to use this time to start a clean slate at home and now have the common ritual, spring cleaning. Jan. 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical, patriotic, religious, nor agricultural significance.

The ancient calendars were derived but using the sun as a natural calendar. The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

In 153 BC, the Roman senate declared Jan. 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established Jan. 1 as the new year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days. Thankfully since then the calendar has remained constant with no changes except the addition of holidays. The only change in terms of day or time we have seen is the addition of daylight savings time which has no effect on the dates except two days a year when we adjust our clocks.

So now is your chance to make a New Year’s Resolution and kick start your life in a new direction if you feel you need some change. Whether it is spending time with family and friends, getting healthier, quitting smoking, managing finances, or increasing your quality of life, the Adams County Extension Staff says good luck and wished you a Happy New Year. God Bless America and 2010!

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.