The United States of America has celebrated New Year’s Day for more than two hundred years. However, the history of New Year’s Day dates back thousands of years. The vernal equinox was celebrated by the Mesopotamians in 2000 B.C. as the start of a new year. This tradition continued into the Middle Ages with many countries around the globe celebrating New Year’s Day on March 20th. In 1752, however, the British and American colonists adopted the Gregorian calendar. Since then, Americans have celebrated New Year’s Day every January 1.
What’s The Vernal Equinox?
Vernal is “Spring”, while equinox is “equal night”. The vernal equinox is March 20th. It marks the beginning of Spring. Day and night are approximately equal in length because the sun is above the equator on the vernal Equinox. March 20th is the start of spring for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere. From that day onwards, the sun will be shining more often until June 21, when it turns into summer. Ancient people considered the vernal Equinox as the New Year. People were turning away from the darkness to the light. The power of the sun is vital for the growth of crops in the agrarian world. The vernal equinox was celebrated by the ancients as a time of fertility, birth, and sunlight. Romans exchanged gifts and made promises that they would keep in the new year.
Why Do We Celebrate New Year’s Day On January 1, And Not March 20,?
The United States of America, as well as most Western countries, can trace a lot of their cultural heritage back to the Roman Republic and Judeo-Christian beliefs. The Romans considered March 1st the New Year before Julius Caesar. This was because March is the first month of the Roman calendar. Romans celebrated a festival to honor Mars, the God of War. Julius Caesar, a Roman reformer, changed the New Year’s celebration to January 1st in 45 B.C. In honor of Janus (the Roman god Janus is named after), Janus, the Roman god of war, was always depicted with two faces: one that looked backwards and one that looked forward. Romans exchanged gifts on this day and promised to each other better in the next year. Romans celebrated this day with parties, food, drink and dancing.
Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor (272-337), kept the Julian Calendar but made New Year’s Day a day for prayer and fasting. Christians were encouraged by the Roman Emperor Constantine to make this day a way to start living better lives. Since the seventh century, January 1st has been celebrated in Rome by Christians as a day to honor The Solemnity Mary, Mother of God. The Christian Church tried to transform the Roman parties into a time for prayer and reflection.
No New Year’s Party
The Council of Tours in 567 decided that Christians should no longer celebrate January 1. They considered them to be pagan. They celebrated the new year instead on December 25, the day that the Church decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. There weren’t mass celebrations because the date wasn’t widely known.
Gregorian Calendar January 1st Restored
Many people in the West rejected the Julian Calendar due to its errors and adopted the Gregorian Calendar. The calendar was named after Pope Gregory III and restored January 1st to its original status as New Year Day. The Julian calendar was kept by Great Britain until 1752. It was then that the English colonists began to celebrate January 1st as New Year’s Day.
How Americans Celebrate New Year’s Day.
Americans celebrate New Year’s Day many different ways. New Year’s Eve is celebrated with family and friends who gather to celebrate the past year and look forward to the coming year. In private and public spaces, there is much revelry and merrymaking. Many Americans set New Year’s Resolutions. They promise to work harder, lose weight, or enroll in a class. Others continue the New Year’s Day religious traditions. Anglicans, Lutherans and others mark this day as the Feast for the Circumcisions of Christ to remember the Christian belief Christ was circumcised eight days after his birth. Roman Catholics remember Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, on this day.