New Year: One of Oldest Celebrations in Human History

Society | January 1, 2009, Thursday // 00:00
New Year: One of Oldest Celebrations: New Year: One of Oldest Celebrations in Human History New Year celebration in downtown Sofia. Photo by Nadya Kotseva (Sofia Photo Agency)

The New Year is an event that happens when a culture celebrates the end of one year and the beginning of the next year. Cultures that measure yearly calendars all have New Year celebrations.

In countries governed by the Gregorian calendar, the celebration of New Year is celebrated on January 1.

Traditionally, the Roman calendar began the first day of March. However, it was in January (the eleventh month) when the consuls of ancient Rome assumed the government. Julius Caesar, in 47 BC, changed the system, creating the Julian calendar, with some modifications in the time of Marco Antonio consul in 44 BC, the emperor Augustus Caesar in 8 BC and finally by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

With the expansion of Western culture to the rest of the world during the twentieth century, the January 1 date became universal in nature, even in countries with their own New Year celebrations.

Eight of the twelve biggest Eastern Orthodox Churches which have adopted the Revised Julian calendar - Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Poland, Romania, Syria and Turkey - also celebrate 1 January as the New Year.

Many in the countries where Eastern Orthodoxy predominates celebrate both the Gregorian and Julian New Year holidays, with the Gregorian day celebrated as a civic holiday, and the Julian date as the "Old New Year", a religious holiday. The orthodox churches of Georgia, Jerusalem, Russia, Macedonia and Serbia still use the Julian Calendar.

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, occurs every year on the new moon of the first lunar month, about four to eight weeks before spring (Lichun). The exact date can fall anytime between 21 January and 21 February (inclusive) of the Gregorian Calendar. Each year is symbolized by one of 12 animals and one of five elements, with the combination of animals and elements (or stems) cycling every 60 years. It is the most important Chinese celebration of the year.

At present, the celebration of New Year is a major celebration worldwide. Many large-scale events are held in major cities around the world New Year's Eve (New Year's Eve for the December 31), being accompanied by the largest fireworks events. London, for example, has a major fireworks display along the River Thames, followed by a parade on New Year's Day. In New York, the celebration is focused around a big crystal ball that descends in the ten second countdown in Times Square, and last year was also the party with the largest number of attendees - more than three million people.

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