A History of the New Year

2014The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March.

A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.

Early Roman Calendar: March 1st Rings in the New Year

The early Roman calendar designated March 1st as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months.

January: named after Janus, the god of doors and gates
February: named after Februalia, a time period when sacri-fices were made to atone for sins
March: named after Mars, the god of war
April: from aperire, Latin for “to open” (buds)
May: named after Maia, the goddess of growth of plants
June: from junius, Latin for the goddess Juno
July: named after Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.
August: named after Augustus Caesar in 8 B.C.
September: from septem, Latin for “seven”
October: from octo, Latin for “eight”
November: from novem, Latin for “nine”
December: from decem, Latin for “ten”

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