New Year’s eve and New Year’s Day are the oldest of all the holidays, and the beginning of a new year was first celebrated in ancient Babylon about 4,0000 years ago. But not on January 1st. It never made much sense to begin a new year on January 1st, and no one has ever been able to find a logical reason for welcoming the New Year on this date. Nevertheless, most of us are preparing to ring the new year on January 1st, albeit with pegan-like festivities like the ones in the pre-Christian world.
The ancient Babylonians used to celebrate the beginning of their new year on what is today March 23rd, although they never had a written calendar. Their new year was called Akitu. Late March was a logical choice for a new year to begin. It is springtime in Europe and North America, the time that new crops are put . And it is the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, the time of the autumnal equinox, so a March date has a worldwide agricultural significance.
The Babylonian commemoration for the new year used to last for eleven days, and each day had its own particular mode of celebration. And celebrate they did! They were known for partying, much like Brazilians are nowadays. Making New Year’s resolutions is one of the things that dates back to early Babylonian times. In those days, one of the most popular resolutions was to give any borrowed farm equipment. Nowa-days resolutions are usually about making some kind of positive personal change.
Just to refresh your memory, Babylon began as a town in what is Iraq today, not too far from Baghdad, and became a military power and then an empire under King Hammurabi, who reigned from 1795-1750 BCE. After the king enlarged his kingdom by conquering neighboring cities and states, he created one of the world’s earliest legal codes and even a minimum wage! He had beautiful build-ings built, ordered magnificent works of art, an excellent educational system, and those hanging gardens that you’ve probably heard of. His people called him a god during his lifetime, and he partied like the myths of the ancient gods. But after King Hammurabi died, no one else was able to hold the empire for very long. The partying stopped when the Babylonians lost power in 539 BCE.
Babylon went into a period a lot like the dark ages for a long time, while different kings and armies fought for its control. Then Alexander the Great came along and conquered it for good, or almost for good, and made it into a province of his imperial territory. He ruled as King of Macedonia, (which was the future Greece) and Pharaoh of Egypt from 336 – 323 BCE, and is considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time. Great military leaders always have a lot of victories to celebrate, as well as new years, and Alexander the Great entertained his friends lavishly. During that period, the New Year continued to be observed in March. However, although Alexander was great, he died when he was only 32 and other emperors began to tamper with the calendar so that it soon became un-synchronized with the sun. Emperors had a thing about changing the calendar at that time.
Julius Caesar came along a good time after Alexander the Great and rose to pow-er in about 46 BCE, becoming a Populist Roman dictator. But he was never the military genius that Alexander was. After all, Alexander the Great had conquered most of Asia by the time he was in his early thirties, making him a hard act to follow. Nevertheless, Julius Caesar led troops to defy the Roman Senate, and set Rome on a path of transformation from republic to empire. Naturally, he also fiddled with the calendar. He had spent a couple of years in Egypt, where he learned about their 365-day calendar. When he returned to Rome, he called to-gether his team of philosophers, astrologers and mathematicians and had them put a calendar that would combine the Roman names for months, the number of days the on the Egyptian calendar, and also the 365 + 1/4 days known to Greek astronomy. Of course he then named it after himself. He also changed the name of his birth month from Quintilis to July. By Julius Caesar’s edict, this new calendar went into effect on January 1, 45 BCE. It came to be used not only in the Roman world, but also in most of Europe and the European settlements such as the ones in the Americas. It is still called the Julian calendar and is still used in some places in the world. As we all know from reading Shakespeare, Julius Caesar was killed by an orga-nized group of Roman senators in 44 BCE, just after he had reached the pinnacle of his power. The senators thought they needed to end his reign and dictator-like attitudes. His assassination started a civil war that ended with the destruction of the Roman republic.
After Julius Caesar came Augustus Caesar, who proclaimed himself emperor of Rome in 27 BCE. Julius Caesar had been his great uncle and his mentor. Agustus Caesar held his title until after the birth of Jesus Christ, and he died in 14 CE. Agustus supposedly restored the republic of Rome, although he retained all the real power for himself. However, he was pretty effective and was able to maintain relative peace in the Roman Republic. Did he mess with the calendar? Of course! He had the 8th month’s name changed Sextilis to Augustus. The Roman Empire didn’t end until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE.
As you can deduce, after the birth of Jesus Christ in year 1, the beginning of Common Era, came Christianity. The Romans were still giving wild par-ties to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but the early Catholic Church stood such festivities because they were pagan. But as Christianity spread around the world, the church was smart enough to begin to observe their religious days concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations. New Year’s Day therefore became in-corporated into the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision. As a matter of fact, it is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision by some denominations.
In the beginning, Christians were all Roman Catholics, and guess what? They changed the calendar again! But that wasn’t until the year 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian Calendar to make up for the fact that Jul-ius Caesar’s calendar had miscalculated the length of the solar year by 11 minutes. The Julian calendar had been used, virtually unchanged, for 1,600 years. And over the years, it had fallen out of sync with the seasons, and that was because it had used a leap-day year 10 more times than necessary. The pope was concerned because Easter, traditionally observed on March 21st, had fallen the spring equinox. And you can easily guess who the Gregorian calendar is named after.
I hope the history review above will help you begin your new year in a hopeful mood, knowing that change is inevitable and that leaders and cultures and even kingdoms never last forever. Now that we know how much time went into mak-ing up our calendar, we might be more inclined to fill as many days as we can with personal reinventing as a way to upgrade our planet.
After you have rung in the New Year according to the Christian calendar, why not begin 2020 with a challenge by doing an exercise using the phrasal verbs in this text? Have a great evening and see you next year!
Tattoos have been around for more than 5,000 years. Egyptians, for example, used tattoos to differentiate between peasants and slaves, a kind of social branding. But ink art, which is what some fans like to call tattooing, has really exploded in the past 25 years. But not all of us have succumbed to this fad. And many of us who don’t have a tattoo have a favorite mug. Having a tattoo or becoming attached to a mug are not dissimilar. According to research, 60% of Americans say they have an emotional attachment to a favorite mug. And about 40% said their special mug was irreplaceable, and about 1/3 of those said they would be devastated if it broke. Personally, I think that most of these people don’t have tattoos. Mugs and tattoos are both an extension of our personalities, and both express the way we would like the world to perceive us. That is not to mention, of course, that those of us who have tattoos or mugs are often irrationally attached to them.
You can plate appetizers on or in many things. Fill in the blanks with on or in: Deviled eggs a platter Figs with bacon a plate Spinach & Yogurt dip a bowl Bacon, lettuce & tomatoes toothpicks Chicken croquettes napkins Oysters with turkey bacon a tiered cake plate Cold cuts a breadboard Raw veggies & dips a Lazy Susan Cheese…
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