Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Origins of the New Year’s Celebrations

The Celebration of the New Year is the most antique tradition of which we have formal record. The people of Babylon celebrated their first New Year in 2000 BC. The Babylonian New Year corresponded to the growing season. The New Year began the first full moon after the spring equinox. The spring was a logical choice to indicate the New Year, after all the spring is the period of rebirth, of new crops and the blossoming flowers.

The ancient Romans continued to celebrate the New Year in late March but their calendar was continuously adjusted at the whims the numerous Emperors. For this reason the Romans decided to synchronize the calendar with the sun. In fact, it was Julius Caesar, in 46 AC, who created the calendar we use today. It became known as the “Julian Calendar”. The New Year officially was established as January 1.

Many of our traditions today, date back the Babylonian reign. The most important tradition is the New Year's Resolutions. For the Babylonians the most widely used resolution was to return the farming tools borrowed during the previous growing season. I guess borrowing your neighbor’s tools is part of our genetic make-up. I still need to retrieve my 40 ft ladder.

The tradition associating the New Year with a newborn child is antique as well. The Greeks, in 600 AC, thought of the New Year as the rebirth of Dionsi, the God of Wine. The ceremony asked for fertility and wealth. At the same time the Egyptians celebrated the New Year in a similar way.

Most local traditions indicate that the first day of the year will define what happens all year long. For this reason a woman must receive the first phone call from a man and vice versa. We eat lentils, each of which represents a "Denaro" the coins of ancient Rome. Touching a hunchback on New Year’s Day brings great fortune. The first visitor of the New Year must be a tall man with dark hair. Strangely enough, I did not find any of these traditions unusual, as a Southerner, my family eats Black eyed peas with bacon rigorously on New Years.

The Druids gave us Mistletoe over the door. It was suspended at the entrance to the home to keep the evil spirits out. I am always humbled as I research the origins of things and traditions. I find that although we may think in the present, who we are is based in the past, thousands of years in the past. Our present day culture makes us think of return on investment, of new and shiny, and we lose our grasp on where we came from and what makes us tick. Then, as I research, I find that we return, at regular intervals and celebrate our history and somehow we absorb our culture making it part of our future.


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Blogger bozette said...

That picture is so amazing I love it.

10:45 PM

Blogger Tracie B. said...

oohwee! i do love me some black-eyed peas. we have b.e.p., cornbread, and cabbage on new year's day.

what are y'all going to do this year?

3:09 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Bozette the picture is a print "Under the Mistletoe" by Maurice Ingre. I thought it was cool.

tracie b. Lentils and homemade Zampone. We have not decided on the wine yet but will certaintly splurge and spend too much!

1:46 PM


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