Reflections at the dawn of a new year
Last year brought us moments of joy and sadness, with news events such as the ongoing effects of climate change and COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, women’s rights, World Cup soccer, the death of Queen Elizabeth II, fusion power and space telescopes.
Another year has begun, and on a more personal scale, many of us are already trying to implement those resolutions we made a short while ago. Whether it was being out at a party with friends, or just a quiet evening watching the “ball drop,” celebrating New Year’s Eve is typically the start of a transitional period to reflect on how the previous year evolved, and what we hope to accomplish for the upcoming year.
While there is value in establishing a milestone to encourage this period of reflection, the reality is, Jan. 1 is a fairly arbitrary time, established about 2,000 years ago by the Romans as part of the Julian calendar, to coincide with the feast of the Roman god Janus, who was responsible for beginnings, transitions and endings. During this time, it was customary to make commitments and exchange good wishes.
Other civilizations used more tangible markers for the start of the new year. For the Babylonians, as early as 4,000 years ago, the new year began when the crops began growing. For ancient Egyptians, it began when the banks of the Nile River overflowed and replenished the soils; for the Inca, it was the shortest day of the year, and in China, it was based on the second new moon after the winter solstice.
In the 6th century the Roman Catholic church moved the first day of the New Year to March 25. However, as part of his adjustments to the Julian calendar in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII moved the date back to Jan. 1. This date was then adopted by most nations of Europe and their colonies in the 1600s, with Great Britain and its American colonies moving from March to January in the mid 1800s.
Many other cultures celebrate new year later than Jan. 1. For example, Chinese New Year was celebrated on Feb. 1 last year, and other southeast Asian or Middle Eastern countries regularly celebrate it later than Jan. 1, extending into March or April. Jewish people celebrate the new year in the fall, on Rosh Hashanah, which was in September last year, and some African countries also celebrate in September, while others celebrate in June during the Odunde festival.
Regardless of when we celebrate this milestone, it’s a time of renewal when we can celebrate last year’s positive achievements and look forward to achieving goals that are set for this upcoming year – a chance to do a mental re-set and get motivated to make changes to improve ourselves and our lives.
Whyte Ridge community correspondent
Nick Barnes is a community correspondent for Whyte Ridge.