Why is January 1 celebrated as New Year? History, significance, traditions and all you need to know


New Delhi: New Year’s Day is a happy occasion, which is celebrated annually on January 1 in accordance with the modern Gregorian calendar. Across the world, people commemorate the occasion with their family members and friends, wishing them good luck and best wishes for another year; in many places there are massive gatherings. People decorate their houses, have get-togethers, cook for their loved ones and even plan outings on this day. But, the question arises as to why we celebrate this day and consider it to be special.

The first time January 1 came to be considered as the beginning of the new year was back in 45 BCE. Before that, the Roman calendar began in March and consisted of 355 days. It was Roman dictator Julius Caesar who reformed the Calendar after coming to power. He instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honour the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future.

However, large parts of Europe did not accept it till well into the mid-16th century CE. With the advent of Christianity, January 1 as the beginning of a new year was seen as pagan and December 25, as the day of the birth of Jesus, was considered acceptable. It was only after Pope Gregory reformed the Julian calendar and standardised January 1 as the first day of a new year that it slowly became acceptable.

Additionally, it is believed that the new year originated in ancient Babylon some 4,000 years ago, in the year 2,000 BC. The Babylonians celebrated the new year with an 11-day celebration called Akitu, which included a different rite on each of the days, on the first new moon after the vernal equinox (typically around late March).

Many nations start their New Year’s celebrations on December 31, often known as New Year’s Eve, and continue through the early hours of January 1. Revelers consume meals and snacks that are said to bring them luck. Traditions like singing songs and watching fireworks are followed all around the world. Many people make resolutions for the upcoming year because January 1 is a great opportunity to start making positive improvements.

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