Have you ever wondered how exactly the New Year’s celebration came about? Think about it. It’s a holiday that billions of people celebrate every year, with a large percentage of these people using this time to make resolutions that will impact their lives for the months ahead. But how did the New Year’s holiday get started? Let’s take a quick look at this holiday, including its history and why we celebrate it.
The History of New Year’s
Most history experts agree that the New Year’s celebration began about 2,000 B.C. in Babylon. And although it may come as a surprise, the earliest New Year’s celebrations actually took place in mid-March. Why? Because this was the time of year when the new year began on the calendar. Also to most people’s surprise is that the earliest New Year’s celebrations lasted for 11 days. During this 11-day festival, commonly referred to Akitu, there were a variety of activities that took place, including rituals and dances. The celebration was used as a time to celebrate an array of religious beliefs, including the victory of Marduk, which was a sky god who was believed to have defeated a sea goddess, Tiamat. It was also during this time that a new king was crowned to the throne. If an old king was continuing his reign, he was crowned for another year.
Another interesting fact about Akitu is that this was a time in which the Babylonian king went through a ritual of humiliation. The king would be brought before a Marduk statue and his royal regalia would be stripped from him. He would also be slapped as well as dragged by ears. If the king shed any tears, this was a sign that the god Marduk was satisfied and that the king’s rule would be a successful and prosperous one.
When Did The Calendar Change?
As stated above, the earliest New Year’s celebrations took place in mid-March. However, over the span of several centuries, it became apparent that the early Roman calendar was becoming out of sync with the sun. So, Julius Ceasar, in 46 B.C. decided to solve this problem by contacting some of the era’s most well-known and knowledgeable astronomers and mathematicians. As a result, a new calendar was created; this calendar was very similar to the modern Gregorian calendar that is used today. It was also during this time that Julius Caesar mandated that January 1 be the first day of the calendar year. Those celebrating the New Year did so with the recognition/ that the New Year was to set the stage for the next 12 months.
Was the New Year’s Celebration Ever Banned?
Yes, in medieval Europe in 567 A.D., these celebrations were believed to be pagan as well as unchristian-like, so the Council of Tours did away with January 1 being recognized as the first day of the new calendar year. Instead, January 1 was deemed as having much Christian significance and was formally known as the Feast of the Circumcision. Eventually, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII made the decision to re-establish January 1 as the first day of the new calendar year, thus meaning it was also re-established as the official New Year’s Day.
What About New Years in New York City?
If you live in America, you have probably heard of the ball drop in New York City on New Years. While technically it is considered to be a part of a New Year’s Eve celebration, the actual ball drop doesn’t take place until the first second of New Year’s day. And even if you haven’t watched the ball drop in person, there’s a good chance you have watched it on TV. So, how did this tradition come about and what does it symbolize?
The New Years celebration in New York City wasn’t always something to celebrate. In fact, some of the attempts to celebrate the holiday were quite disastrous. From panicky police to ash-covered crowds, the first New Years celebrations in the city involved actual dynamite. In 1907, the use of fireworks and dynamite were banned. As a result, Artkraft Strauss, a sign-making company, was hired to construct and “lower a 700-pound wood-and-iron ball covered in 100 25-watt bulbs.”
Over the next few years, the crowd to watch the ball drop grew larger and larger. In 1917, though, the celebration was greatly impacted by the wartime coal shortage. The ball was still dropped, however, crowds were much smaller and they conjured together at rooftop bars. There have been only two years that the ball didn’t drop, in 1942 and 1943. It was during those two years that the tradition was suspended because of WWII. Instead of dropping the ball during those two years, the New Years holiday was quietly rung in by a minute of silence.
After WWII ended, the tradition kicked off again and was quite popular among locals. In 1972, though, the rest of the country became more involved in the tradition when it was aired on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin‘ Eve show. Much like today’s tradition, the show covered the drop of the ball and it also featured several musical acts, however, these acts were prerecorded. If you watch the ball drop today on TV, you will enjoy a variety of live performances. These types of performances have been going on during the New Years celebration since the year 2000.
Probably the most famous glitch that has occurred during the New Years celebration in Time Square was in 1996. This was the year when the company, Countdown Entertainment, responsible for lowering the ball switched its manual lowering method to a computerized system. Things did not go well at all. During the lowering of the ball, it stopped for several seconds and people had to manually lower it the rest of the way.
The New Year’s celebration has a lot of history behind it. And as time continues to go by and as more and more New Year’s are celebrated, history will continue to shape the traditions that go along with the holiday.