A History of the New Year’s Day

December 31, 2019 9:14 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

The greeting, “Happy New Year!” is heard all over the world at the end of December and in early January. What many people do not realize is that January 1 has not always been celebrated as the first day of the year.

March was originally the first month of the year in the Roman calendar. The Roman year had 304 days and 10 months which were March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December.

In 700 BC, the Roman king added the months of January and February to the calendar making a total of 12 months. He also moved the beginning of the year from March to January. However, the Roman calendar eventually fell out of tune with the cycles of the sun.

In 46 BC, Julius Caesar reformed the calendar by changing the number of days in some months. The new calendar was known as the Julian calendar and the month of July was named after him.

Julius Caesar also instituted January 1 as the day to honor Janus, the Roman god who had two faces, one looking into the past and the other into the future. The Romans celebrated the day by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties.

When Europe was converted, Christians would not participate in the celebrations of January 1 since they were held in honor of a pagan god. Christians celebrate March 25, the Annunciation Day, as the first day of the year as it commemorated the day Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah (Jesus).

The Julian Calendar was not perfect as it had been losing about a day each century. By 1582, it had lost 14 days. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII, reformed the Julian Calendar by advancing the calendar 10 days. The change was made the day after October 4, 1582 and the following day became October 15 instead of October 5. His calendar was later adopted throughout Europe.

The Gregorian calendar also decreed that Christians would celebrate the New Year’s Day on January 1. The day had religious significance to the church since it was supposedly the day on which Jesus was circumcised. Thus, the New Year’s Day has been celebrated on January 1 for the past 400 years in the modern world.

Many Christians celebrate the New Year’s Day praying and thanking God for all the blessing that they received in the old year. They also pray for blessings in the New Year. How do you celebrate the New Year’s Day?

New Year’s Resolutions
Although millions make resolutions at the beginning of each year, only about 10% manage to achieve them. Many of the resolutions are forgotten or abandoned after a few days or weeks. The habit of making New Year resolutions has been around for centuries.

The Babylonians are the first recorded people to have made New Year resolutions about 4,000 years ago. Their resolutions commonly involved their promise to return any borrowed farm equipment, as their New Year coincided with the start of their farming season.

The Romans would start their new year by counting the stock of the previous year and setting goals (resolutions) to accomplish much more in the new year. On the other hand, the Chinese would set a New Year resolution to thoroughly clean their houses.

Today, people make resolutions for various reasons and try to achieve them in the new year. The resolutions are mainly based on self-improvement that is meant to change habits and lifestyle. The most common resolutions include losing weight and quitting smoking or drinking.

Many Christians make new year resolutions such as to pray more, read the Bible every day, attend church regularly, tithe, fast and seek God more. These are good but they very often fail because there is no power in new year resolutions. Resolving to start or stop doing something has no value unless it is backed up by a proper motivation.

If God is at the center of your new year’s resolution you have a better chance for success – depending on your commitment. Remember without Jesus, we cannot achieve anything by ourselves (John 15:5). Secondly, you can only achieve something through Jesus Christ who gives strength to accomplish it (Philippians 4:13). If a resolution does not honor God or is not in agreement with God’s Word, we should not expect God to help us to fulfill it.

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