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What is the oldest of all holiday celebrations?

Inspiration Online Magazine - Janus
Janus - Roman God of Gates & Doors

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"Auld Lang Syne" is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. At least partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's, it was first published in 1796 after Burns' death. Early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern rendition. An old Scotch tune, "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days." Here are the lyrics:

Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?
For auld Lang syne, my dear, for auld Lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld Lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld Lang syne?
And here's a hand, my trusty friend and gie's a hand o' thine
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet for auld Lang syne

The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun. In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what has come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the new year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days. The first of January was dedicated by the Romans to their God of Gates and Doors, Janus. A very old Italian God, Janus has a distinctive artistic appearance in that he is commonly depicted with two faces ... one regarding what is behind and the other looking toward what lies ahead. Thus, Janus is representative of contemplation on the happenings of an old year while looking forward to the new.

Ancient Egyptians originally celebrated the New Year with the Feast of Opet around the middle of June, which was when the Nile River usually overflowed its banks. Consequently, people were unable to work and would be free to take part in the festivities. Statues of the God, Amon, together with effigies of his wife and son, would be taken by boat down the Nile from Karnak to Luxor, where the people would sing, dance and feast for a 24 days before transporting the statues back to the temple. Phoenicians and Persians proclaimed the beginning of the New Year on the Autumnal Equinox (September 22nd).

Inspiration Online Magazine - New Year's Baby

The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth. The use of an image of a baby with a New Years banner as a symbolic representation of the new year was brought to early America by the Germans. They had used the effigy since the fourteenth century. Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions, which also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

Inspiration Online Magazine - New Year's 1938 NY
Times Square - New Year's Eve 1938

The first rooftop celebration atop One Times Square, complete with a fireworks display, took place in 1904. The New York Times produced this event to inaugurate its new headquarters in Times Square and celebrate the renaming of Longacre Square to Times Square. The first Ball Lowering celebration atop One Times Square was held on December 31, 1907 and is now a worldwide symbol of the turn of the New Year, seen via satellite by more than one billion people each year. The original New Year's Eve Ball weighed 700 pounds and was 5 feet in diameter. It was made of iron and wood and was decorated with 100 25-watt light bulbs.

It was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. For that reason, it has become common for folks to celebrate the first few minutes of a brand new year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night after the ringing in of a new year. It was once believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year. Special New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune.

Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures. The hog, and thus its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another "good luck" vegetable that is consumed on New Year's Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year's Day.

~From: Wilstar.com

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