The New Year and Our Traditions
It’s that time of year again. Winter has arrived and, aside from the blizzards that have already wreaked havoc across the midwest, the holiday festivities are upon us. My personal favorite holiday is New Years.
While we all love the act of gift giving during the holiday season, what’s better than kicking off the new year with a kiss from your number one(s)? For those not into public displays of affection, take a moment to realize just how many people around the world gather in celebration of old and new, brimming with fresh commitments and resolutions. If this doesn’t give you a bit more faith in humanity, then I don’t know what will!
It’s remarkable that at every hour for one whole day, the whole world is in a state of celebration. What is even more astounding is that celebrating the New Year is one of the few civil holidays not anchored in a specific belief system, bringing people together from all walks of life. Some might argue against this, and would perhaps point out that the New Year is part of the Gregorian Calendar, not so subtly named after Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. However, the origin of celebrating the New Year goes back thousands of years…
An Ancient Celebration
The earliest record of humans celebrating the New Year goes back to ancient Babylon in 4000 BCE. During this era, New Year’s Eve was celebrated during the first new moon of the Spring Equinox, around March 20th. This day would mark the start of an 11 day celebration called Akitu, during which Babylonians would carry out rituals believed to cleanse the world in preparation for Spring and the year to come. They would also promise to pay off their debts and return borrowed items, laying the foundation for one of the longest-standing NYE traditions, making New Year’s resolutions.
Not too far behind, the ancient Egyptians, in 3000 BCE, celebrated the New Year around mid-July to September, after their brightest star, Sirius, would reappear in the sky. This coincided with the annual flood of the Nile river, the life source. The Egyptians followed a solar calendar based on the constellations. Their New Year was called Wepet Renpet, meaning the “opening of the year,” and was associated with rebirth and rejuvenation. It featured many rituals, extravagant parties, and the first record of consuming alcohol. So, the Egyptians were the first to party with beer.
Meanwhile, in the far east, the first Chinese New Year was celebrated with that of the Shang Dynasty in 1600 BCE. The Shang Dynasty brought advancements in writing, mathematics, astronomy and with that the creation of the first Chinese calendar. The Chinese New Year is celebrated after the second or third new moon following the winter solstice for a period of 15 days. The holiday is associated with the tale of a monster named Nian, Chinese for ‘year’, that attacked villages. In an effort to scare the beast, villagers dressed themselves and their homes in the color red, hung lanterns, and, after gunpowder was invented, shot off fireworks.
The Roman Calendar
Similar to the Babylonian and Chinese New Year, the Roman New Year was celebrated on the Spring Equinox, having first been introduced around 7th century BCE. However, when Julius Caesar overthrew the Roman Senate and declared himself dictator of Rome, with it went the lunar-based calendar. In Caesar’s defense, the calendar was in a total state of disarray and continually out of sync with the seasons. Many corrupt high-ranking priests or pontifices would go so far as to leverage time to influence elections in favor or against political allies and foes.
To put a stop to all the madness once and for all, Caesar enlisted the help of a Greek astronomer named Sosigenes of Alexandria, who, like the Egyptians, suggested that Caesar use the solar calendar. In 45 BCE, the year was calculated to be 365 days and a quarter and would begin on January 1st. Every fourth year, a leap day was added to February to account for the quarter day.
So, why January 1st and not the Spring Equinox? Two reasons. Starting back in 153 BCE, the consuls, the highest elected officials of Rome, took office on January 1st for their 1-year term. This marked the beginning of a new political administration. More importantly, the month of January was associated with the two-faced god Janus. The deity, Janus, had one face looking into the future and the other face looking toward the past. This juxtaposition brought about the idea of transition from one year to the next. The Romans would give offerings, share gifts and well wishes with the community in hopes of bringing about good fortune for the next 12 months.
The Gregorian Calendar
Julius Caesar’s reign did not last long. In fact he was murdered in 44 BCE, a year after the first calendar year. Nevertheless, the Roman calendar remained in use well into the expansion and downfall of Rome, through the dark ages and into the middle ages. However, celebrating the new year on January 1st, fell out of practice as many Christians across Europe saw the date as being Roman and therefore Pagan.
Instead, some countries celebrated the new year on December 25th, Christmas day. Other countries commemorated Mary and her miraculous conception on March 25th; whereas, many others celebrated Easter Sunday as the New Year. For the few unaffiliated with the church or with royalty, January 1st was still the start of a new year, kind of… By the mid-1500’s the calendar year was 10 plus days out of sync–again!
By the 1570’s, the Roman Catholic Church became aware that the Roman calendar had fallen out of sync, as the Spring Equinox and with it Easter kept moving up. To remedy this problem once and for all, Pope Gregory XIII commissioned astronomer Christopher Clavius to bring alignment back to the calendar. The original Roman calendar was based on 365.25 days, when in fact one solar year is actually 365.242199 days long, an 11 minute time difference that would add up to 10 days by 1582. Clavius therefore established the Gregorian calendar that we have today, omitting 10 days from 1582 and establishing a leap year every four centennial years.
The adoption of the Gregorian calendar outside of Catholic countries was slow to start, but by the time the USSR adopted the calendar in 1923, it had spread far and wide. The Gregorian calendar is now seen as a civil calendar, used largely by government and business organizations. Hence, the celebration of New Year’s Eve on January 1st is seen by many as separate from any church or specific religion. Coincidentally, NYE does happen to coincide with the Earth being at perihelion, when the Earth’s position is closest to the sun–not to be confused with the Winter Solstice, which is Earth’s shortest day in the North Pole due to its axis to the Sun, around December 21.
Complicated, yes? No one said the New Year was a simple thing. After all, it’s worthy of celebration!
Now that you’ve learned a little history about New Years, let’s jump back to public displays of affection and other New Year’s Eve traditions…
Kissing actually began as a way to bless loved ones and ward off bad energy. People were considered most vulnerable when transitioning to a new year. Let us not forget, for half the globe, December 31st occurs in the thick of winter, when immune systems are at their weakest. Indeed, what better way to welcome in the new year than with love and some immune boosting kisses. There’s nothing more positively mind altering than surrendering to the embrace of your loved one(s), even just for a split second. That split-second release of oxytocin is most probably just the pick-me-up we need to get through the rest of winter.
Of course, there are other New Years traditions, such as taking January 1st off. After all, why not? If we have to be up past midnight to celebrate the ringing in of the New Year, who should have to work the next day? Of course, some of us may be nursing a hangover, so taking the 1st off is both convenient and necessary (unless you work for Chipotle [Chipotle staff can call nurse to prove they’re not just hungover], in which case hangovers are not a good enough reason to stay home)!
You might be wondering how did alcohol get thrown into the mix in the first place? Who can start the year off right if you’re hungover? As we read above, the ancient Egyptians were the first to drink alcoholic beverages in celebration of the New Year. By the late 18th century, champagne was associated with royalty and religious rituals. However, after the demise of the French royals, champagne became the staple for more secular celebrations, i.e. New Years. Given the rise of the French working class, aided by improved bottling technology, a monumental business opportunity was granted to French winemakers to produce champagne at greater volumes at much lower costs. (Read our blog about office parties and drinking and driving)
Speaking of grapes, there’s also the tradition of eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight in Spain. Yup. You must eat and/or stuff a grape in your mouth every second following midnight for 12 seconds to symbolize your hopes for the 12 months ahead. It sounds easy, but it can be quite tricky, especially when you’re trying not to laugh at each other’s overly stuffed cheeks. If you can succeed at this, you will have good fortune going into the new year. Thereafter, you can kiss your number one, or whoever’s left over. The grapes may get in the way, of course.
Then there is shooting off fireworks! Well, we know that the Chinese are the ones to thank for that long-standing tradition. Indeed, New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be the same without a little pyromania, and some sparklers in tow to match our fizzy drinks. A bit of fire and sparkle during the coldest time of year is always welcome. Fun fact: the ball drop in New York City replaced the otherwise epic firework show that preceded it too avoid the many dangers that come with setting off fireworks in the crowded streets of New York City. The famous ball drop is actually based on the time balls that were lowered on the flagstaffs at the stroke of midnight, so that sailors in the nearby ports could reset the time on their chronometers.
A HealthLynked New Year’s Resolution
And yet the greatest tradition of them all dates back to the ancient Babylonians and the act of making New Year’s resolutions. What better way to start off the new year than going into it with a healthy clean slate? At HeathLynked we take new year’s resolutions very seriously. We therefore would like to help you achieve the most this upcoming year by introducing you to our upcoming Partnership Program for 2020.
We’ve partnered with MedOfficeDirect so that you can get even more discounts on the lowest prices on vitamins, supplements, medical supplies, medical equipment, medical monitors and so much more. We’re also partnering with Viome, a company that helps you take greater control of what you can eat to boost your gut’s microbiome. By boosting your gut’s performance in turn you boost your digestion, metabolism, immune system, energy levels, and even prevent the spread of disease. Those are just a couple of the companies HealthLynked has partnered with for the start of 2020.
Moreover, HealthLynked would like to encourage you to take advantage of our Partnerships by becoming one of our preferred members for just $10 a year. For less than $1 a month, you can get 1GB of storage in our cloud. This way you can stay on top of you and your family’s medical records all from the ease of your smartphone, right at your fingertips. Upload your medical records at no cost, share your medical records with your healthcare providers in an instant, and stay on top of immunization, doctors notes, etc. and in the meantime receive discounts from MedOfficeDirect and Viome.
Let us help you make the transition in 2020 that much easier, to make your lifestyle choices that much healthier, and to make storing your medical records that much more accessible. Start by downloading our app for the New Year today! Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.
Contributing blog writer: Marpessa Rietbergen, a HealthLynked staff writer.
The information in this blog post is sourced from:
5 Ancient New Year’s Celebrations
The Julian calendar takes effect for the first time on New Year’s Day
Why Does the New Year Start on January 1?
Why We Celebrate the New Year on January 1
Why everyone drinks champagne on New Year’s Eve
The History of New Year’s Resolutions
New Year’s 2017: Surprising Past of Times Square Ball Drop
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