The New Year, while basically a religious festival, has so much history behind it because it is related to the creation and adaption of the Gregorian calendar.
When the early Romans devised their calendar, there were only ten months, with March being the year’s first month. This means we need to take a deeper look at the New Year origins and why the tradition of celebrating it on the 1st of January has only been around for 400 years, give or take!
Uncovering New Year Origins
In Mesopotamia at around 2000 B.C., the New Year was celebrated during the vernal equinox, around March 25. There were only ten months in the year back then. The calendar during that time was based on the seasons, and March was when the planting season started. It was therefore chosen as the first month of the year.
With March as the first month of the year, it was logical that “septem” was the name of the seventh month (September in Latiin), “octo” for the eighth month, “novem” for the ninth month and “decem” for the tenth month.
It was in 153 B.C. when Rome started celebrating the New Year on the first day of January. The months of January and February were added by Rome’s second king, Numa Pontilius, at about 700 B.C. January. It became the beginning of the year because it was during that time when the newly elected Roman consuls started their one-year tenure in office.
The New Year in the Julian Calendar
Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar with January as the first month of the year in 46 B.C. It was based on the sun’s movements and was a much-improved calendar compared to the Roman lunar calendar that was used earlier. The lunar calendar was later proven to be wildly inaccurate.
However, during the Middle Ages, the use of January 1 as the New Year was abolished, and it went back to being celebrated on March 25, coinciding with the Christians’ Annunciation Day. During that time, the observance of the New Year varied. In some parts of Europe, it was observed on March 1, March 25 during Easter, or on December 25, although March 25 was the dominant day for observing the New Year.
The New Year in the Gregorian Calendar
In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was introduced and adapted, with January 1 reinstated as the start of the year. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, with the corrected discrepancies in the computation of the equinoxes and the leap years. The British and its colonies in the Americas began using the Gregorian calendar only around 1752. This is the Christian or Western calendar that we still use today.
Every year, including leap years, July starts on the same day as April. The first day of September starts on the same day as December. The first day of March also matches the first day of November. Their only difference is the additional day for March, July, and December. During non-leap years, additional matches occur in January and October. March and November start on the same day as February. July is the same as January. And February is the same as August for the first 29 days during leap years.
Wrapping Up New Year Origins
If you’re one of the people that sat under a table just before 12 on New Year’s Eve, eating 12 grapes and wearing red underwear after hauling a suitcase around the party, you might have another shot at getting your New Year’s resolutions sorted if you do it all again on the Spring Equinox. There’s another opportunity for you when your birthday comes around, marking your PERSONAL new year.
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