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Many dates make up New Year's Day

January 11, 2013
James P. Whipple , Shepherdstown Chronicle

I thought that writing an article about the celebration of New Year's and its origins would be a simple task. It was after much research and a real learning experience that I put pen to paper. Here is what I learned in the first week of this new year.

In the United States, thousands of people across the country jam parks, stadiums and dance floors to celebrate New Year's. Thousands more watch TV as the new year is being ushered in at Times Square in New York City.

It has become a tradition in New York to go on down to Time Square to welcome the New Year at midnight. It is believed that this tradition was started in 1907. The New York Times-then owners of the skyscraper from which the ball drops on New Year's Eve-adopted the time ball as their symbol for ushering in the new year. That original Times Square ball, made of iron and wood and lit by 25 incandescent lights, weighed 700 pounds!

The transition between New Year's Eve and New Year Day is an exciting one. Across the country people count down the seconds to welcome the new day as the New Year ball slowly descends and lights up the area around Time Square.

I thought, like many, that new year was celebrated the same time of year by most peoples of the world and that the new year started with midnight in each time zone. I knew that Chinese and Jewish peoples had a different date for New Year's. Several countries or cultures do not celebrate New Year on Jan. 1. Among the cultures and countries that have a different date for New Year's are the Egyptians, the Jewish, the Romans and Mohammedan as well as the Chinese. The first day of the Chinese New Year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

According to Historicism the earliest recorded festivities in honor of a New Year's arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. "For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox-the day in late March with an equal amounts of sunlight and darkness-heralded the start of a New Year."

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica "the Chinese Lunar Calendar is 2,640 years older than ours and never begins on January 1st, nor does it begin on the same date each year." Chinese New Year can begin any time between Jan. 21 and Feb. 18, depending on the date of the new moon in Aquarius. Each year is named for an animal such as "The year of the Lamb." Every 12 years this cycle begins again. The Chinese say that the animal ruling the year you were born will influence your life. In 2013, Chinese New Year begins Feb. 10 and will be the year of the Water Snake. Every animal of the zodiac has five elements associated with it. Because of this, there are five snakes, one for each element. Thus, every twelve years there is a different snake.

Going back thousands of years, the Egyptians celebrated their new year at the start of the summer months. New years came around June 15 or about the beginning with the annual flooding of the Nile River, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.

The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox. According to ancient writing and tradition, the founder of Rome, Romulus created it in the eighth century B.C. In ancient Rome According to History.com the first day of the new year honored Janus the god of gates, doors, beginnings and endings - the month of January, named after Janus, was originally called 'Januarius'. "Janus had two faces - one which looked ahead to see what the New Year would bring, and the other looked backward to see what happened during the past year." Ancient Romans celebrated New Year's by giving gifts to friends and family members

Jan. 1was recognized as New Year's Day in the 1500s with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar. The Julian Calendar places the New Year on Jan. 14.

The Jewish New Year, a feast day, is celebrated about the time of the fall equinox, in late September. According to the Huff Post Religion Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year is celebrated in 2012 from sundown on Sept. 16 to nightfall on Sept. 18. The Hebrew date for Rosh Hashanah is 1 Tishrei 5773.

"The holiday actually takes place on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei,

The Mishnah refers to Rosh Hashanah as the "Day of Judgment," and it is believed that God opens the Book of Life on this day and begins to decide who shall live and who shall die. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are viewed as an opportunity for Jews to repent (teshuvah, in Hebrew) and ensure a good fate."

In a book entitled the History of England, it talks of the Druid Priests. "English Druid priests celebrated their New Year on March 10. They gave branches of mistletoe to people for charms." Later, English people followed the custom of cleaning their chimneys on New Year's Day. The English believed this brought good luck to the household for the coming year.

According to History.com "The expression "cleaning the slate" came from this custom of chimney cleaning." It means making resolutions to correct faults and bad habits. People resolve to make themselves better in the New Year. It is still customary even today to make a list of New Year resolutions for the coming year. The History of New Year's is as old as time and has many different facets as well as dates.

 
 

 

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