New Year's Day is New

( [email protected] ) Jan 01, 2004 09:11 AM EST

For as long as most of us can remember, New Year's Day is celebrated on January 1, which is the first day of the new year. It wasn't always this way. The Babylonians were the first to observe this holiday around 2000 B.C. but would celebrate this day on what is now March 23 according to the Western calender. They did not follow a calender but their eleven-day celebration would coincide with the springtime, which meant harvest time for crops. For agriculture, spring represents a time when the cycle of life and growth begins a new.

With the coming of the many Roman emperors, during the period of Roman rule, the day to celebrate new year often was changed time and time again. In 153 B.C., the Roman senate declared January 1 as the official beginning of that year. Emperors ignored the law and continued with modifying the Roman calender. Roman Dictator Julius Caeasar re-estalished January 1 to be the official beginning of the new year and in 46 B.C. allowed the year to include 445 days for the purpose of synchronizing the calender with the sun.

Much later on, the Roman Catholic Church considered the celebration of New Year's to be paganistic and only recognized the church's celebration of the Feast of Christ's Circumcision. It wasn't until Pope Gregory XIII introduced a revision of Caesar's calendar, which a majority of the world now follows, in 1582 that January 1 became an official holiday recognized by the church and celebrated by Western nations.