“Happy New Year!” is a greeting that will be passed around the world as another new year begins just after the stroke of midnight on January 31st. However, it wasn’t always celebrated on January 1st, as we do now in the modern world. Historians tell us that the celebration of the New Year is one of (if not) the oldest of all holidays – first observed in ancient Babylon approximately 4,000 years ago.

Saay whaat maaan? Dint yo know dat sheeet? Fo shuuure dem Babylonians (who be our Rastas forefarders an de place dat Jah originate from) in as faar back as 2,000 years before da Lord be born, be celebratin dere New Year wit da first new moon after da first day of Spring (now we be callin it da Vernal Equinox). Dose cats, bein goverened more or less by natchural cycles, took da logical way – seein dat Spring be da time of regeneration, plantin new crops and rebirth – jus like us folk here in Sri Lanka do wit our Sinhala / Tamil New Year. An yo can see how dese modern dudes did dis arbitrary number an call January 1st da New Year – even tho it have no astronomical or nachural significance.

Java makes sense.

As the eons went by the Romans continued to observe the day in early March of each year, but their calendar was continually tampered with by many of the eccentric emperors that succeeded each other and in time the calendar evolved to being out of synchronization with the sun. Then finally, in 153 BC, the Roman Senate declared January 1st to be the beginning of the New Year. However, the tampering did not stop at that – it continued, until Julius Caesar established what is now known as the Julian Calendar in 46 BC. This retained January 1st as New Year’s Day, but in order to retain the calendar’s synchronization with the sun, Caesar let the previous year drag on for 445 days!

Although in the first centuries after Christ the Romans continued to celebrate the New Year, the early Catholic Church condemned the celebrations as ‘pagan’. However, as Christianity spread around the world, the Church started to observe its own religious beliefs concurrently with many of the earlier established ‘pagan’ celebrations, so that New Year’s Day was no different to what was in the past. Then, as we fast-forward to the Middle-Ages, we find the Church opposing the celebration of New Year’s Day. And ‘New Year’s Day’ as we know it, and as it has been celebrated by the ‘modern’ world, has only been so for the past 400 years – a relatively short period of time.

Heey maaan, yo know dat some Christian denominashuns observe New Year’s Day as da Feast of Christ’s Circumcision? Now aint dat somting!

Trust Java to come up with interesting trivia!

One of the traditional western additions to the celebrations has been the singing of the song, “Auld Lang Syne,” which is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to usher in the New Year. The song was (at least partially) written by the Scots poet, Robert Burns in the 1700’s and was first published in 1796 after Burns’ death. We are told that early variations of the song were sung prior to 1700 and inspired Burns to produce the modern version. “Auld Lang Syne” literally means “old long ago,” or simply, “the good old days.”

And so we celebrate another New Year’s Day, hoping like hell that we in Sri Lanka will have even a semblance of a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year. Too much to hope for?

All the best to you all from Java and yours truly.

Advertisements