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The Ancient History of New Year’s Day

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History of New Year’s Day. The annual tradition of the New Year’s resolution has a rich history dating back to around 4,000 years ago. After all, Life improvement and self-improvement have always been t been the driving force behind the advancement of mankind.

Without self-improvement, the human race would master the feats of strength and intellect that have enabled us better lives.  Fortunately for mankind, our need for improvement has seemed almost innate and even become an annual tradition. New Year’s Resolutions are a popular ritual, especially in western culture. A New Year’s Resolution is the resolution of an individual to change a trait or behavior. It promotes a time for self-reflection and evaluation.

History of New Year’s Day in Ancient Babylonia

The Babylonians are believed to be the first people to make resolutions. Before the coming of Christ, many people worshiped several gods. The Babylonians tried to earn favor with the Gods by making promises or vows to the Gods. Because of this, they made vows to the gods are the beginning of each year that they would return borrowed goods and repay debts. While the times have drastically changed, some of the resolutions of the people of Babylonia are familiar to people of today. A common resolution of a commoner of ancient Babylonia was a resolution to rid themselves of debt. Subsequently, this is a resolution that many still work towards in modern society.

The history of New Year’s day starts in Ancient Babylonia, where Babylonians celebrated the coming of a new year with a festival.  Babylon And no, it wasn’t in the midst of winter. The New Year was celebrated when crops were being planted. The festival lasted approximately 11 days. This celebration also coincided with the flooding of the Nile River. This celebration was to be the first celebration in honor of the New Year. Other areas of Mesopotamia also celebrated the New Years in March. Their calendar year had only ten months.

The History of New Year’s Day and Ancient Rome

The Roman Calendar made a noble attempt to follow the lunar cycle but it often failed. Furthermore, it often lost sync with the changing of the seasons and therefore had to be modified. Previously, The Roman Calendar was corrupted by leaders to add time to leadership positions or to manipulate political elections. Julius Caesar saw the need to reform the traditional Roman calendar. Because of this, Julius Ceasar employed Sosigenes, a notable astronomer who suggest to not follow the lunar cycle during the creation of the new calendar. The Alexandrian astronomer suggested that they follow in the footsteps of the early Egyptians and adapt the calendar to coincide with the solar year. The product of their collaborative efforts was the Julian calendar, created by its namesake, Julius Caesar. The first day of the year to Jan 1 to bring honor to Janus, the Roman god of beginning. Janus is also the inspiration behind the name of the month January. In 45 BC New Year’s Day was celebrated for the first time.  Ancient Rome was a mecca for trade and travel which helped the concept spread. Eventually, it was adopted by different nations.

The History of New Year’s day  and the Gregorian Calendar

During the middle ages, many cultures had turned away from the Julian Calendar.  New Years Day was celebrated on different days. The Catholic Church understood the need for change. They would construct a new calendar that could be recognized internationally. The year was 1582  and Pope Gregory XIII acknowledged Ceasars New Year as January 1st. He did not take completely to the Julian Calendar, instead, he refined the Julian Calendar, by which had been heavily adapted by various cultures. Finally, the product of this modification and renewal was the Gregorian calendar which is the calendar that we use today. This observance of the New Year also coincides with The New Year according to the Julian Calendar. The Gregorian Calendar is widely accepted today and New Year’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated holidays. People everywhere make resolutions for the coming year.

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Also, some suggested reading

Time Magazine: How to keep your New Years Resolutions

New York Time’s 2017 New Years Eve Guide


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