A New Year’s Origin Story


 New Year’s Day is a celebration of an old year ending and a new one beginning. Bars, nightclubs, and comedy clubs host special events to greet the new year and to try to start it off right: by laughing and having a good time. Instead of going out for the night, some people prefer to stay in their house and have their own party with friends and family. Everyone eats, drinks, and enjoy the company of others from late December 31 to early January 1. New Year’s resolutions are made for the new year to give people a goal to work towards, be it personal growth or the growth of one’s community. All of this starting because ancient societies created their calendars around food and the moon.

As it turns out, many ancient civilizations, such as the Egyptians, the Chinese and the Babylonians, based their calendars around days with agricultural or astronomical importance. The Babylonians, for example, held the first day of their calendar on March 1st, in line with the vernal equinox. This was a time for crops to be planted and the crowning of a new king or a reaffirmation of the power of the current king. The celebration, referred to as Akitu, lasted for eleven days with different religious rituals on each day.

In the 8th Century B.C., Rome created a calendar that had 10 months on it. Rome’s calendar, much like the Babylonians, was based entirely on the sun with the first day of the year as March 1.  As Rome developed, the months Januarius and Februarius were created and threw the time scale off. In 46 B.C, Julius Caesar created his own calendar which more closely followed the sun while adding in his own months. He also introduced the idea of January 1 as the first day of the new year, as January was named for the Roman god Janus who has two heads to look into the past and future. This was not widely accepted until Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar which established January 1 as the official day of the new year.

New Year’s celebrations were filled with raucous partying and religious prayers. Today’s celebrations are not too far off from those old traditions. One of the biggest activities that people participate in, such as twelfth graders William Rosenberg and Terry Brawley as well as ninth grader Desmen Milligan, is watching the ball drop in New York. Brawley’s family usually has a huge family gathering with a big feast to accompany. Rosenberg’s family stays at home to celebrate the New Year. Milligan’s family, however, spends New Year’s in a church lockdown with a different theme every year to keep things lively!

As the first day of new year was being disputed, the new year’s resolution was being formed. The Babylonians would promise their gods to pay back debts and return borrowed objects. The Romans would promise Janis to be better in the coming year and give sacrifices to him believing that he would bless the Romans with a favorable year. Fast forward into the medieval era and knights would take a “peacock vow,” a type of new year’s resolution that was always taken at the end of a year, to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. Today, resolutions are made typically for self-improvement or self-gain.

The New Year’s Resolution is very hard to keep up as many people have found out. Milligan tries to make one every year, they just have a fifty-fifty chance of being completed! He wants to better himself and to “get better at it…so I can successfully do it at least once.” Brawley also makes a resolution “because I want to better myself in one aspect.” Rosenberg makes resolutions as well, although he does not have a specific reason as to why, “It’s just what people do.”