I have never felt an affinity for New Year’s Eve or Day and my aversion to this holiday seems to grow stronger every year. I understand it’s a big cause for celebration for most of the world’s population and I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, still I can’t seem to get my heart into it. I started to wonder why and did some research on its history and origins. What I think bothers me most about this holiday is that its man made and has no real connection to the natural world, it’s cycles and seasons.
In fact, it’s been changed several times throughout history. Around 2000 BC, the start of the new year coincided with the spring equinox, around March 25th. During the Roman Empire, the Julian Calendar was created and people used to celebrate March 1st as the start of the new year. Then in 1582, Pope Gregory created the Gregorian calendar, which began being widely used, and marked January 1st as the beginning of the yearly cycle. However, England and Italy refused to adopt this calendar until almost 200 years later, in 1752. During these two centuries, events were recorded using dates from both calendars. Talk about unnecessary confusion in the history records!
Even today, various religions and cultures celebrate a different start to the new year. The Islamic calendar sees August 9th and 10th as the beginning of their yearly cycle and the Hebrew calendar recognizes this special day in September or October. The Chinese New Year falls on Friday, February 12th of 2021. The Orthodox religions honour Jan 13th and 14th, while the Egyptians see September 11th as their special day. In many Hindu traditions and countries of South East Asia, April 13th and 14th is considered the commencement of a new year. Some African cultures revere the second Sunday in June.
Then we have the ancient Mayan and Aztec calendars that measured a solar year, a 260 day “ritual” calendar year, as well as 18 months each consisting of 20 days. Are you starting to grasp the complexity of time keeping systems? The current calendar that is most commonly used today (at least in the part of the world where I grew up) is the Gregorian calendar, which is based on a solar year – the time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun – approximately 365 days. This is not entirely accurate which is why every four years, and extra day is added to make a Leap Year to keep us on the track of the solar schedule.
A lunar year consists of 12 full cycles of the moon, which is roughly 354 days. One month is defined by the moon (which I always thought made the most sense) but an extra month is added every three years to keep it as close as possible to the solar year (similar to what is done in a leap year). The Moon takes 27.3 days to orbit Earth, but the lunar phase cycle (from new Moon to new Moon) is 29.5 days. This is believed to be because the Moon spends the extra 2.2 days "catching up" to the Earth, which travels about 45 million miles around the Sun during the time the Moon completes one orbit around the Earth.
I certainly don’t have all the answers and, to be honest with you, the more I research this topic, the more questions arise. Even the most brilliant of mathematicians and astronomers couldn’t agree on one system for all of humanity to follow. What I do understand is that people who belong to any group, whether it be a geographic nation, or tied together by a spiritual faith, look for a reason to get together and celebrate the passage of time. This I can get behind. So, whatever you recognize as your ending to one cycle and beginning of a new cycle, I salute that. And I salute you! Happy start to 2021.