The First New Year Celebration

By Luke Phillips
The first New Year celebration was held more than 4,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia around the year 2,000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. Other ancient civilizations including the Egyptians and Persians celebrated the New Year during the Fall Equinox and the Greeks celebrated during the Winter Solstice.
The early Romans adopted a 10-month calendar (said to have been invented by Rome founder Romulus) around the year 753 B.C. and declared March 1 the beginning of the New Year.
The 10-month Roman calendar was in use for several hundred years and still has effects on the names of the months today. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for “seven,” octo is “eight,” novem is “nine,” and decem is “ten.”).
The New Year was first celebrated on January 1 around the year 150 B.C. when the Romans officially changed the holiday to match the beginning of their civic year  when newly elected Roman officials began their one-year tenure. The idea took a while to catch on though, and New Year was still widely celebrated on March 1.
In 46 B.C. Julius Cesar introduced a new solar based calendar far superior to the Roman’s lunar based calendar. The Julian calendar officially named January 1 the New Year and Romans widely celebrated on that day for the first time.
At the time, Medieval European Christians found the idea of celebrating the New Year on January 1 a pagan and unchristian idea and in 567 banned the holiday. At various times and various places, Medieval Europeans celebrated the New Year on Christmas, March 1, and Easter.
In 1582 the modern Gregorian calendar was introduced and New Year was restored to January 1. Most Catholic-based societies adopted the calendar quickly, but Protestants were slower to adopt the practice. New Year in Britain and the American colonies was still celebrated on March 1 until 1752.
The most commonly sung New Year song in English speaking countries is ‘Auld Lang Syne’, a song first published in the book ‘Scots Musical Museum’ in 1796. The author Robert Burns transcribed the song into his book after hearing it sung by an old man in Scotland, his homeland.
The song was popularized after singer  Guy Lombardo who sang it at a New Year’s Eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929. Lombardo learned the song from Scottish immigrants in his home town of London, Ontario Canada. After that, Lombardo’s version of the song was played every New Year’s eve from the 1930s until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria. It was also broadcast on television and radio and quickly became a time-honored New Year tradition.
The practice of making New Year’s resolutions is believed to have begun with the ancient Babylonians, and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since. Early Christians saw the New Year as a time to reflect on past mistakes and resolving to improve oneself. Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions today are losing weight, quitting smoking, getting out of debt, saving money, drinking less alcohol, eating better, volunteering more and reducing stress.
Probably the most famous American New Year tradition is the dropping of the New Year ball in Time Square in New York City. The first New Year ball, dropped in 1907, was made of iron and wood. Today the ball is made of Waterford Crystal, weighs 1,070 pounds, and is six feet in diameter.
Fireworks, another New Year tradition, are believed to have been used to celebrate the holiday in ancient China where they believed that the bright lights and loud noises would ward off evil spirits for the year to come. The tradition is still widely honored today.
A New Year tradition widely observed in the Southern United States is the eating of a dish called Hoppin’ John (Black Eyed Peas and Ham Hocks). Those who eat Hoppin’ John on New Year are said to have plenty of everything during the year to come.

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