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imageFirstly, I better come right out there and tell you, I never celebrate New Year’s Eve, I am usually somewhat of a pessimist and you can all stop frowning right now . You see I always worry that the next year might be worse than the last, not a problem on that score this year! I have had one of the most amazing, scary, sad and wonderful years of my life. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. From helping to highlight a friends need to  escape from a  mental ward for simply  being an atheist, to the death of friends and relatives. Believe me atheists are human too and we feel it just as keenly. So this year I am running towards 2015, I am going to have a wonderful year. It may be challenging but I am going to make sure it goes with a bang!

SO HERE WE GO WITH NEW YEAR THROUGH HISTORY

Celebrating New Years is the oldest of our holidays, and was first observed in Babylon 4,000 years ago,and started with the first new moon of the vernal equinox. The Babylonian New Year lasted 11 days and makes our meagre celebrations pale into insignificance, doesn’t it?

Makes complete sense right? The beginning of spring, the season of re-birth, new crops and spring blossom.  The 1st of January , however, is a fairly new phenomenon and has no significance whatsoever.  Infact,  the month of January didn’t even exist until 700 BC, when the second King of Rome Numa Pontilius added January and February to the calendar.

The first time it was celebrated was on 1st January 153 BC. Prior to this the Romans had celebrated in late March, but their calendar continually changed with the numerous Emperors’ and soon their celebrations were out of sync with the sun. To reset the calendar, the Roman Senate declared 1st january 153 BC to be New Year’s Day.  Tampering continued however, until Julius Caesar established the Julian Calendar in 46 BC. In order to synchronise the calendar with the sun the year dragged on for 445 days!

Then Christianity came along and took hold, the early Catholic Church condemned the  festivities as paganism and they were banned. As was usual in time Christianity took over yet another pagan celebration and renamed it as “The Feast of Christ’s Circumcision” which is still observed by some denominations today.

imagein 567 AD the Council of Tours abolished 1st January as the beginning of the year, and from then on at various times, throughout Medieval Christian Europe, New Years was on 25th December, 1st March or 25th March. During the Middle Ages the church remained opposed to the festivities and so this holiday was has only been observed for the past 400 years by Western Nations.

In 1582 The Gregorian Calendar reform restored 1st January as New Year’s Day.  Although most Catholic countries adopted this calendar it was only gradually adopted by Protestant countries.  The UK did not adopt Gregorian until 1752, and until then New year was celebrated in March of each year.

2nd September 1752 was an unusual day in anyones idea of history!  Millions of British subjects in Britain and The Colonies went to bed that night and woke up 12 days later! It was of course “The British Calendar Act of 1751”, which declared the day after Wednesday 2nd September to be Thursday the 14th September.

Before this unusual event, the British calendar had differed from the Continent by 11 days. The 2nd September in London was 13th September in Paris. How confusing!  this was due to Britain stubbornly holding onto The Julian Calendar.

NEW YEAR’S CELEBRATIONS WITHIN OTHER CULTURES

imageActually, to this day there are many different dates for New Year’s celebrations

  • CHINESE NEW YEAR – Every year the changing date falls between 21 January – 21 February. It will fall this year on the year of the goat and be celebrated on 19th February 2015.  The 15 day observance is the most important traditional Chinese holiday in their calendar known as “Spring Festival”
  • JEWISH NEW YEAR – Rosh hashanah.  It is celebrated in the autumn on the first 2 days of the 7th month of the Hebrew Calendar. For Jews it is a time of introspection and to look back at their mistakes.
  • ISLAMIC NEW YEAR – also known as the Hijri New Year. It falls on the first day of Muharram, which is the 1st month of the Islamic calendar.  Special prayers are said and the appearance of the new moon is recorded in the Mosques. This year it fell on 25th October 2014 and next year it will be 13th October 2015.
  • THAI NEW YEAR – also known as Songkran, it is celebrated 13-15th April. One of the main activities is throwing water.  The water is symbolic of the hopes that it will bring good rains in the coming year. All Buddha statues and images are also cleansed for good luck and posterity.image

I did of course, being me, look for any historically religious tomfoolery, and as can be expected found some :-

To Catholics it is also called St Sylvester’s Day, on New Years Eve 1577 Pope Gregory Xlll decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death must listen attentively to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Roman Synagogues after Friday night service.  On New Years Day 1578 Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a “House of Conversion” to convert Jews to Christianity.

On New Years Eve 1581 Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate literature from the Roman Jewish community. thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign.

Throughout the Medieval and post Medieval periods 1st January supposedly the day of Jesus circumcision initiated the reign of Christianity and the death of Judaism, and was reserved for anti-Jewish activities, synagogues and book burnings, public torture and murder of non-christians.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Who are the pagans?

imageWell it has been one hell of a year for most of us, it has had its highs and its lows. We can raise a glass to the end of an unusual year and my friends I wish you all the best for the year to come. I hope it keeps you in good health and I hope it will be better than 2014!  Remember, no matter your belief system… just be good to each other and if you cannot help at least do no harm….

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

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