How did the New Year come to exist?
Why do the majority of people celebrate it on January 1?
Babylonian New Year
|A supposed depiction of the goddess|
Tiamat in the shape of a sea
serpent (Neo-assyrian relief,
cca. 900-750 BC)
New Year for the Inca and Maya
The Roman New Year
|A sculpture of Julius Caesar|
New Year During the Middle Ages
|Leonardo da Vinci - the Annunciation (cca. 1472-75 CE)|
That which followed was very confusing. Nobody could decide whether to use the previous date of the New Year (March 1), or to define a new date. The Church decided it was best to take March 25 as the beginning of the New Year because this was the day of the Annunciation (exactly 9 months before Christ's birth on December 25). This didn't make sense to the British so they took December 25 as their New Year as a symbol of the rebirth of the year, a new period and new beginnings in general. This date is also very close to the winter solstice (which usually falls between December 21 and 23) which marks the shortest day of the year, but also represents the strengthening of the Sun and the prolongation of the day in the oncoming period.
Certain deviations occurred later on in Britain. For example, the New Year was once again determined to begin on January 1. This happened when William the Conqueror gained control over England. This date wasn't take for historical reasons, it was simply the date of his coronation. But after his death, the New Year was reverted back to March 25 in England.
The Gregorian Calendar
|Lavinia Fontana - a portrait of|
Pope Gregory XIII