Of course, God alone created the earth, and the heavens, and all therein… Included in such supernatural orderings was the division of day and night, and the lining up of seasons and their points of influence and degrees of change. There was not, though, a named designation of the division of one year from another. Nowhere in scripture are we told to regard January as the beginning of a new year. Indeed, these divisions are arbitrary and have evolved over many generations into the calendar we observe today.
The following paragraphs by Borgna Brunner contain very interesting material concerning the development of the holiday that we here in America call the New Year, and that we celebrate on January 1st. Read as much as you would like, but don’t leave me, for following Mr. Brunner’s material, I have written other observations.
The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
Early Roman Calendar: March 1st Rings in the New Year
The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. 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”).
January Joins the Calendar
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls—the highest officials in the Roman republic—began their one-year tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1.
Julian Calendar: January 1st Officially Instituted as the New Year
In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1, and within the Roman world, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year.
Middle Ages: January 1st Abolished
In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and unchristian like, and in 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter.
Gregorian Calendar: January 1st Restored
In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year’s day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire—and their American colonies—still celebrated the new year in March
My thoughts are that although the timing of the particular day is of little consequence, our celebrating of New Year’s Day is expedient and profitable. For us to take this once-yearly day to thoughtfully and honestly consider our lives is a prudent and timely activity. With all candor, let us take a look at the past year, scrutinize our failures and our successes, observe anew our progression or regression, cogitate over the challenges we have met, and with the sterling glow of truth, especially examine our spiritual and intellectual conditions.
For myself, I anticipate 2007 to be a profitable and fulfilling year of growth, both of an intellectual and spiritual nature. For you, I wish the same. May your dreams be rich ones, may truth pervade your atmosphere, and may your mind and spirit be stimulated toward the production of excellence. If He is not there already, allow God to be the center of your life, your focal point, your destination. Dream your dreams accordingly, plan your every activity with Him in mind, make Him your focus, your hope, your desire.
A happy, prosperous and spirited year of our Lord 2007.