Posted by Vishva News Reporter on January 1, 2003

Christians around the world celebrate NEW YEAR'S DAY without question. Yet New Year's Day is a manmade event. Plus, it wasn't always celebrated on January 1st...... on the next line to read the backgrounder on the above from MSN.CA........

Ushering in the New Year
Learn the ancient beliefs behind tonight's big bash

By Helen Buttery at MSN.CA

We celebrate it without question. It's as predictable as Canada's frigid Januarys, yet New Year's Day is a manmade event. Plus, it wasn't always celebrated on January 1st.

About 4000 years ago, the Babylonians were the first to observe this holiday with an 11-day festival, coinciding with the spring equinox (late March) and planting new crops. Purification ceremonies and tributes to their gods, especially their chief deity, Marduk, took place. On the 10th day the story of Marduk's triumph over evil and the creation of mankind was reenacted. Like today, the Babylonians thought of New Year's as a time of reflection on the year past and looking ahead to the future. They believed what they did on New Year's Day would effect the rest of the year. They also made New Year's resolutions, most commonly to return borrowed farm equipment.

The Romans continued to celebrate New Year's in March, but the holiday soon became out of synch with the sun as different Emperors tampered with the calendar system. Astronomers were recruited by Julius Caesar to establish a new calendar, resulting in a 365-day year of 30 and 31-day months, except for February. It had 29 days, 30 every fourth year. Augustus made a small adjustment to the system, taking one of February's days for his own month, August.

Julius Caesar set January 1 as New Year's in 46 BC. Fittingly, January was named after the Roman god, Janus. He was the god of beginning. Janus was usually pictured with two bearded heads placed back to back so that he might look to the past, as well as to the future.

Like many holidays, New Year's was considered pagan by the church. Yet, in a bid for new recruits it celebrated religious observances, in this case the Feast of Christ's Circumcision, concurrently with non-Christian holidays. However, the symbol of the New Year's baby doesn't represent Jesus. The tradition began around 600 BC in Greece. Egyptians, too, used a baby as a symbol of rebirth. The Germans who used the image since the 14th century brought the representation to early America.
Today, many historic New Year's traditions resolutions for example and symbols like the bannered baby remain. Yet there are some newer additions. Auld Lang Syne, a Scottish song meaning "old long ago" was written partially by Robert Burns in the 1700s. It is sung by almost every English speaking country at the stroke of midnight to usher in the New Year.

Then of course, there is the Rose Bowl. The Tournament of Roses parade paved the way for the annual football game and was started in the 1890 in Pasadena, California to celebrate the ripening of oranges. More than 2000 people watched the flowered-covered floats and participated in such games as tug-of-war. This year the parade is five and a half miles long and an estimated one million people will attend.

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