Divine triumph was celebrated on the first New Year’s Eve in history

Divine triumph was celebrated on the first New Year’s Eve in history
Divine triumph was celebrated on the first New Year’s Eve in history

An ancient custom in the modern age

The first New Year’s celebration we know took place about four thousand years ago: in ancient Babylon, the farewell of the old year and the coming of the new year were reckoned for the time of the first new moon following the spring equinox. The event was greeted with an 11-day festival.

It was the Feast of Akitu, during which the chief god, Marduk, who defeated Tiamat, the epitome of chaos, was celebrated.

In addition to its religious significance, the festival also had a political role: it was then that the new kings were crowned or the ruling status of the old ones was renewed.

A Mesopotamian god fights a monster that embodies chaosSource: Wikimedia Commons

Akittu was also a Mesopotamian, Akkadian and Sumerian holiday, and the descendants of the Assyrians living today still celebrate the New Year under that name. It was mandatory to keep throughout Mesopotamia during the Assyrian Empire, but it was delayed during the Persian Empire when Assur and Babylon were depopulated.

It was not until the 20th century that Akito’s customs returned, largely due to the Assyrian descendants living in the United States.

When the Nile determined the beginning of the New Year

In ancient Egypt, the New Year was tied to the movement of the Nile water: the Old Year was said goodbye to the flood, coinciding with the rise of the Star of Syria after 70 days of hiatus (this star is the brightest star in the winter hemisphere). This feast of ancient Egypt, Wepet Renpet, was especially popular among the poorer strata as it adapted to agricultural cycles; distinguished three seasons (winter, summer, and flood) that were thus in sync with previous local festivals.

Source: Anadolu Agency via AFP / 2021 Anadolu Agency / Stringer

There are places where the years are not numbered

Chinese New Year to this day falls during the second new moon after the winter solstice, which usually occurs somewhere around January 21 and February 20.

In ancient China, the reverence of the ancestors and the worship of the gods were at the center at this time. The Chinese don’t really number the years, but if they have to be measured from somewhere, it’s traditionally the BC. It is made from the 3rd millennium, the beginning of the reign of the Yellow Emperor, one of the most significant rulers of ancient Chinese mythology. However, this does not mean an exact date either, in fact, different calendar researchers designate different years first.

Statue of the Yellow EmperorSource: Wikimedia Commons

January 1 is a Roman invention

January 1 became New Year’s Day for the first time thanks to the Romans. The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months, or 304 days, and began in March. According to legend, this was introduced by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in AD. In the 8th century.

According to legend, Numa Pompilius, the mythical ruler, added the months of January and February to the calendar. Over the centuries, however, this method of calculation has shifted, and Julius Caesar, in consultation with his scholars, decided in AD. In 46 he introduces the Julian calendar – January 1 was the first day on which the god Janus was glorified.

Janus is a special mythological figure, with two faces: one looking at the past, the other looking into the future.

Janus, the two-faced godSource: Wikimedia Commons

Later, during the Middle Ages, various Christian church leaders postponed the start of the New Year to December 25 (the official day of Jesus ’birth) or March 25 (the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Fruit when Jesus conceived) because of its religious significance, but

XIII. Pope Gregory finally restored the beginning of the year to January 1, 1582, as we know it today.

Incidentally, the compilation of the first Roman calendar is reflected in the names of the months we still use today: septern (September) in Latin means seven, octo (October) eight, and novem (November) nine.

Many places still have New Year’s Eve at different times today

In countries that do not live according to the Gregorian calendar, which we do not use, the New Year does not always fall on January 1. In Ethiopia, for example, it is celebrated on September 11th and is called Enkutatash, which marks the end of the summer rainy season. In Cambodia, the night that dawns from April 13 to 14 is a farewell to the New Year, and the celebration lasts for three days.

In Korea, Seollal is the name of the New Year and marks the first day of the lunar calendar, but it also celebrates January 1 of the Gregorian calendar. In Thailand, between April 13 and April 14, the New Year turns into New Year, with locals calling it Songkran and traditionally splashing water on each other in the name of cleansing and good luck.

On the occasion of Songkran, water is poured into a Buddha statueSource: Bangkok Post via AFP / Bangkok Post PLC./Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

The Vietnamese New Year is also associated with the moon, the most important and most celebrated national tradition, held sometime between January 20th and February 20th and greeting the coming of spring with it.

Nowruz marks the beginning of the Iranian calendar and falls on the astronomical spring solstice, March 21st. Nowruz has been celebrated in the area for almost 3,000 years, and not just here — significant parts of the Balkans, Central and South Asia, and Northwest China are celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Rosh Hashanah, i.e. Jewish New Year, always falls sometime between September and October, but it is difficult to delimit it regularly in the Gregorian calendar.

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated with a danceSource: Sputnik via AFP / Igor Maslov

In India, even within the country, the New Year is celebrated several times, depending on which area has a particular tradition. In Tomb Lanka, the closing of the harvest season is celebrated by saying goodbye to the New Year, on the 13th or 14th of April in Capricorn.

 
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