History of New Year's Eve & New Year's Day
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are that time of year in which we celebrate the past year while making resolutions and toasts to usher in the new year. But January 1st has not always been the start of the year, so how exactly did it get to be the first day of the new year? Before you send out your New Year's cards, learn about the history of New Year's Eve and New Year's Day by going back in history just a few years.
The first celebration of New Year's Day was recorded to be in 2000 BC by the Babylonians. Their celebration was during the planting of new crops and lasted for 11 days. New Year's celebrations continued to be during the spring festival time for the next few centuries as that was a time of new beginnings and hope for good crops.
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar established the first day of January as New Year's Day and had to adjust the Roman's calendar accordingly. He accomplished this by making the previous year 445 days so that the seasons and moon would be perfect for the start of the new year. The day was dedicated to Janus, the Roman god of gates, doors, and beginnings - a perfect fit for a new year and new beginnings. The entire month of January is actually named for Janus, a god with two faces, one looking back and other looking forward.
In the 7th century in Flanders and the Netherlands, it was customary to exchange presents on the New Year. This eventually moved to being a tradition on Christmas Day.
Although the Gregorian calendar (the calendar used by the Western world today) was the first to adopt January 1st as the start of a new year, many countries first adopted January 1st as the first day of the year before later adopting the Gregorian calendar.
Today, January 1st serves as a sign of a new start with fresh hope and looking forward for the new year. Old habits are hoped to be left behind and new habits formed. With as many years that have passed and the changing times and people, the new year remains a symbol of the same hope for clean bright beginnings that it meant to the Romans and ancient people that came before us. It will probably continue to mean this for generations and peoples to come as well.