“No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.” Charles Lamb
Old Year’s Day, New Years Eve, Saint Sylvester’s Day: call it what you will but regardless of language or location, the grand celebration of the last day of the year is a universal and time honored tradition. But unlike other annual celebrations such as Christmas day and Easter, the history behind New Years Eve is rarely brought to light. So this year we thought we’d delve a little deeper than fireworks and festivities to uncover the true origins of this very special day.
Image from Wikipedia
Incredibly the celebration of new year dates back to 2000 B.C. and ancient Babylon, when Babylonians heralded the first new moon following the vernal equinox – the day in March when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator – as the start of the new year. The auspicious occasion was then celebrated with a huge religious festival called Akitu.
By the time of emperor Julius Caesar’s reign in 46 B.C. it was thought that the traditional calendar begun to fall out of sync with the sun, prompting Caesar to introduce the Julian calendar, which very much resembles the modern calendar that we use today. According to research, Caesar marked January 1st as the start of the new year to honour Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to see the future and the past. It is thought that Romans then began to celebrate the New Year by exchanging gifts, decorating their homes, and offering sacrifices to Janus.
Today New Years Eve has become synonymous with firework displays, parties, and resolutions that we know we’ll never keep. And sure enough even the practice of making new years resolutions dates back to the ancient Babylonians, who reportedly made promises to the gods in order to earn favour, and start the year off on the right foot. So this December 31st, whilst your celebrating with loved ones and warbling along to Auld Lang Syne, why not raise a toast to Janus, the Babylonians, and the history behind the most momentous of eves.
By Jenna Jones