Saturday, 4 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I know it's the 4th of January, but it's better late than never!
It's a good job that this blog is mostly for my own private amusement, because it has been considerably neglected over the past few months - one essay or another has always managed to take priority. I'd love to say that I'll be a better blogger this year and keep this up to date, but that would be no more than wishful thinking.

As no post would be complete without some historical insight, here are some interesting facts relating to the New Year...

  • Around the world, New Year celebrations have been undertaken for at least 4 millenia, with the earliest being around 2000BC. However, at this time, the New Year was marked by the first new moon following the vernal equinox (a day in late March with equal sunlight and darkness).
  • It is believed that the custom of making New Year's resolutions was first done by the Ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to gain the favour of the Gods.
  • Throughout antiquity, calendars became sophisticated and complicated, with the New Year often linked to agricultural or astronomical events. In Ancient Egypt, the New Year was marked by the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.
  • The early Roman calendar had 10 months and a total of 304 days, with the New Year still marked by the vernal equinox.
  • Over the centuries, this calendar fell out of synch with the sun; in order to realign the Roman calendar, Julius Caesar had to add 90 extra days to the year 46BC, when he introduced the new Julian calendar.
  • As part of his reform, January 1st became New Year under the Julius calendar, which bears close resemblance to the Gregorian calendar which is used by most countries today (some countries still choose to celebrate New Year in connection with agricultural/astronomical events).
  • The month of January is named after the Roman God of beginnings, Janus, whose two faces allowed him to look back on the past and forwards into the future.
  • Since then, Christian leaders have temporarily replaced January 1st with more significant dates, including December 25th, the birth of Christ. Pope Gregory XIII re-instigated January 1st as New Year in 1582, under the Gregorian calendar, which is still used today.
  • The song 'Auld Lang Syne' was written by Robert Burns in 1700, a Scottish song which literally means 'the good old days'. It is sung to remember friends, old and new.
  • In the Netherlands, ring shaped cakes and pastries are eating, believed to symbolise that the year has come full circle.
  • A Spanish tradition is to eat 12 grapes at midnight, believed to bring good luck for the coming 12 months.
  • Many traditional New Year dishes also include legumes (eg. lentils in Italy), which are considered to be a symbol of good luck.
I'm sure there are many more weird and wonderful facts and traditions surrounding New Year celebrations, but I wouldn't want to bore you too much with an exhaustive list of every single tradition that exists. If you have any more facts which I haven't included, don't hesitate to drop me a comment!

I hope that everybody had a wonderful New Year and that 2014 is all that you wish it to be.