The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all of our holiday traditions. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4,000 years ago.
In an agriculturally-based society, the beginning of spring was a logical time to observe the start of a new year. It’s the season of rebirth, of planting new crops and of blossoming.
The Babylonian New Year began with the first new moon after the Vernal Equinox – first day of spring – and the celebration lasted 11 days.
New Year’s resolutions were made and kept in ancient Babylon – one of the most widespread resolutions involved returning borrowed farm equipment.
The Romans adopted the concept of celebrating the new year and making New Year’s resolutions but changed the date of the “new year” to January 1. They thought it more fitting to have it begin on the first day of the month named Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances.
He had two faces, one on the front and one on the back of his head. He could look backward and forward at the same time.
Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and exchanged gifts to bring good fortune at midnight on December 31 before the beginning of each year.
These days, celebrating the new year on January 1 makes sense for us. The busy time of harvest is over and the cold weather brings families together indoors. The frenzy of the Christmas season has wound down and we have a little time to be with family and to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year to come.
Many of us will celebrate the new year with a sip or two of strong spirits and the making of New Year’s resolutions.
Recent polls indicate more than 88 percent of Americans make at least one New Year’s resolution.
The most common resolutions are to lose weight, save money, quit smoking, spend more time with family, exercise more, eat healthier and be more organized.
Unfortunately, also according to polls, fewer than 20 percent of us will be successful in any of our resolutions.
So, as we celebrate the coming of 2016 here in Pocahontas County, let’s remember that we are engaging in a venerable ancient human tradition that has lasted thousands of years.
And, maybe instead of making a lot of resolutions that we can’t keep, just remember to get all that borrowed farm equipment returned.
I wonder if that includes hedge clippers and rakes…