Why this day? Of course this is New Year's Day because it is the first day of the new year—but WHY is it the first day?
Many cultures started their New Year at the vernal equinox (a.k.a. the first day of spring). This makes sense because it is hooked with an astronomical event (the day and night are exactly even) and it resonates with the idea of the new year being the time when everything is fresh and new and reborn: new plants sprout out of what had been snow-covered soil, and new leaves emerge on what had been barren branches.
One of the most famous New Year's traditions is the Chinese New Year. In China's lunar calendar, the equinoxes and solstices are thought of as the middle of the seasons, rather than the beginning. Under this scheme, the beginning of February is considered the beginning of spring—and indeed, this is the time when the Chinese New Year falls.
Most of the world now uses the Western / Gregorian calendar, which was a reform of the ancient Roman “Julian” calendar. The beginning of our year is completely arbitrary and unconnected to astronomical events. Julius Caesar decreed the January start date as the date when the two new consuls were chosen to rule Rome; the years were named for these consuls.
The name January comes from the Roman god Janus, the god of doors, gates, and beginnings and endings; this god's two faces look in opposite directions, and mythology tells us that the god Saturn gave Janus the ability to look back to the past as well as forward to the future.
Rome didn't always count January 1 as New Year's Day. For years the Roman calendar began in March and so, like other cultures, Rome honored springtime as the start of the year. This is why the months that were not named for gods (such as March for Mars, June for Juno, and so forth) or for emperors (July for Julius, August for Augustus) were often given number names. The name September comes from septem, or seven(th month)—even though on our calendar it is the ninth month. Similarly, October (octo) means eight, November (novem) means nine, and December (decem) means ten.
The problem is, the Roman calendar was getting out of whack with the seasons. Caesar knew something had to be done to solve the problem. He decreed that the year 45 B.C. would have 445 days, and that all years following would have 365, or 366 on leap years. Caesar chose the locally-relevant date January 1 as the day to start 46 B.C. (remember the consul explanation given above).
Although the Roman empire's breadth and importance meant that the Julian calendar was used in many far-flung places, not just in Rome, different groups and nations often used other dates as the beginning of the New Year. For example, although England used the Julian calendar, it didn't switch its New Year from March 25th to January 1st until 1752, when it finally gave up the Julian calendar for the Gregorian calendar (about 180 years after most of western Europe).
If you have a new 2010 calendar, it's time to fill in the dates you already have—school and work schedules, dental and doctor appointments, and birthdays of families and friends.
If you don't have a 2010 calendar, how about making one? There are free calendar makers on the Internet (try this one or this one). Some of the calendar makers even allow you to enter holidays, personal birthdays, and your own photos!
The concept of making a promise to oneself at the beginning of a new year goes back at least as far as the ancient Babylonians. Rather than resolving to lose weight or earn better grades, common resolutions in our society, the most common resolution in Babylonia was to return borrowed equipment.
Some people make very, very weird resolutions. One blogger resolved to try lots of different meats—everything from raw yak to crickets. Another blogger determined to learn a new party trick such as belching the alphabet. A wealthy person decided to take his own personal waiter to restaurants to ensure good service—and he was very happy to report that he kept his resolution, and it had the desired effect!
Leonard Bernstein, a famous composer and conductor, once resolved to stop complaining. A great book about complaining (and NOT complaining) is Willie Bear and the Wish Fish by Debi Gliori.
Try to figure out what these common resolutions are by filling in the consonants from the letter box. There are *** between words:
1. D ___ I ___ ___ *** ___ O ___ E *** ___ A ___ E ___
2. E A ___ *** ___ E A L ___ ___ Y *** F O O ___ ___
3. ___ ___ I ___ K *** ___ E ___ ___ *** ___ O ___ A
D D D H H K L M N N R R R R S S S S T T T W
ANSWERS:1.DRINK MORE WATER 2.EAT HEALTHY FOODS 3.DRINK LESS SODA