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New Year’s Day
Significance of New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day 2019 falls on the 1st of January each year and marks the commencement of the Gregorian calendar. It is one of the most celebrated public holidays not only in the United States of America but throughout the world.
History of New Year’s Day
The concept of celebrating a new year was originally instituted in Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 2000B.C. around the time of vernal equinox in mid-March. The early Roman calendar designated March 1st as the commencement of the New Year.
The first time the New Year was celebrated on 1st of January was in Rome in the year 153 B.C. It should be noted that the month of January did not exist until about 700 B.C. when the second king of Rome (Numa Pontilius) added the month to the calendar.
Since 153 B.C. January 1, the New Year was moved from March to January because it marked the commencement of the civil year and the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls began their one year tenure. Julius Caesar, in 46 B.C. reformed the calendar and extended the period of a year from 355 days to 445 days that consisted of 15 months. These changes lead to creation of the Julian calendar and the beginning of the new rationalized calendar, as we now know it.
The month of January is thought, by many, to have been named after the god of transitions and beginnings, Janus, during the reign of the second King of Rome who lived from 753-673 B.C.
In 567 A.D. the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the New Year was celebrated on December 25, a day known for the birth of Jesus.
Among the 7th century pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands, it was the custom to exchange gifts on the first day of the New Year. This custom was criticized by Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660). On the date that European Christians celebrated the New Year, they exchanged Christmas presents because New Years’ Day fell within the twelve days of the Christmas season in the Western Christian liturgical calendar; the custom of exchanging Christmas gifts in a Christian context is traced back to the Biblical Magi who gave gifts to the Child Jesus.
In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as New Year’s Day. Most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, but most Protestant countries gradually adopted it. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until the year 1752. Until then, the British Empire (and their American colonies) still celebrated the New Year in March.
1 January 2019 as New Year’s Day 2019 was adopted officially by most nations of Western Europe somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian calendar. Dates predicated on the year beginning on 25 March became known as Annunciation Style dates, while dates of the Gregorian Calendar commencing on 1 January were distinguished as Circumcision Style dates because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, the observed memorial of the eighth day of Jesus Christ’s life after his birth, counted from the latter’s observation on Christmas, 25 December.
Pope Gregory christened 1 January as the beginning of the New Year according to his reform of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, thus confirming its existing date.
Traditions of New Year’s Day
January 1 marks the remembrance of the passing year and represents a new beginning and the start of a new year. It is marked significantly with fireworks at midnight, New Year’s resolutions, new beginnings and friends and family. This day is traditionally a religious feast, but since the 1900s has also become an occasion to celebrate the night of December 31, called New Year’s Eve.
In the United States, it is traditional to spend this celebration together with loved ones. A toast is made to the New Year, with firework displays, kisses, watchnight services and parties amongst other customs. A popular tradition (although optional) is the making and declaration of New Year’s resolution. In the country, the most famous New Year celebration takes places in New York City, where a 11,875-pound (5,386-kg), 12-foot-diameter (3.7-m) ball, known as the Times Square Ball (located high above One Times Square) is lowered starting at 11:59 pm, with a countdown from sixty seconds until one second, when it reaches the bottom of its tower. The arrival of the New Year is announced at the stroke of midnight with fireworks, music and a live celebration that is broadcast worldwide.