| Since its inception, mankind has always been on the lookout for newer things and events. Now and then, it wants to do away with the old scheme of things and make a fresh beginning with renewed energy. It is precisely this spirit that the New Year's Day signifies.
Every culture has its own calendar and its unique way of timekeeping. In the modern world however, there has been a general consensus to follow a standard system of timekeeping and this explains the use of the Gregorian calendar or the New-Style Calendar across the world today.
As per the Gregorian calendar, January 1 marks the beginning of a new year while December 31st signifies its end. Every year, the first day of January is celebrated all over the world with great gusto and grand exuberance. In most nations, it is a public holiday that is enjoyed with sumptuous feasts and merry festivities.
But the New Year Celebrations have a long history that dates back to a time as ancient as around 2000 BC, when the primitive Babylonians are supposed to have started the tradition of observing their new year with the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring) in mid-March. Unlike the modern observances of New Year's Day that are restricted only to January 1, the Babylonian new year celebrations lasted for eleven days and were much grander in scale.
But the tradition of celebrating New Year's Day on January 1 began with the Romans. In ancient times, the Romans are said to have observed their new year in late March (probably March 15 or March 25, the date of the Vernal Equinox). But the custom changed around 153 B.C when there was a change of monarchy in the Roman empire. During this time, the Romans began to observe January 1 as the beginning of their new year.
But in later years this date was shifted as each successive ruler tried to introduce a different calendar to adjust the system of timekeeping in a way he felt right. The first of January was again restored as New Year's Day when the great Roman Emperor established the Julian Calendar in 46 BC. Thenceforth, Rome has been celebrating its New Year's Day on January 1.
But the New Year festivities faced stiff opposition in the Middle Ages when the authorities of the early Catholic Church in Europe described such celebrations as against the christian tradition. As a consequence, the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as New Year's Day in 567 AD. Instead New Year's Day began to be observed throughout medieval Christian Europe in those dates that had some christian association, sometimes on 25th December (the supposed birthday of Jesus), or March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation) or during Easter at other times.
But January 1 again became the time for commencement of a year when Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new calendar in 1582 to rectify an error in the Julian calendar. This timetable was a modification of the Julian calendar and it shortened the latter by 10 days and established the convention that only centenary years divisible by 400 should be leap years. It came to be known as the Gregorian calendar.
In most Catholic countries, the Gregorian calendar gained immediate acceptance while the Protestant countries slowly began to conform to it. Thus, January 1 began to be celebrated as New Year's Day.
It is interesting to note that January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by the Western nations for only about the past 400 years. While Germany took up the new tradition in 1700, Great Britain and the American colonies accepted it in 1752 and Sweden began to observe the tradition since 1753. The Oriental countries which follow religions like Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam, initially viewed the Gregorian calendar as a Christian Calendar but has gradually warmed up to it and adopted it as their official one. Japan embraced it in 1873 and China in 1912. The orthodox eastern nations adopted it even later, in 1924 and 1927. Russia took it twice - first in 1918 and again in 1924, after trying out its own calendars.
With joyful feasts, parades, resolutions, fireworks, partying and get-togethers, New Year's Day is now celebrated all over the world on January 1.
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