When Did People Start Celebrating the New Year?

historical new year's celebration
People have celebrated the New Year in Times Square in New York City since the early 1900s.

Did you celebrate the New Year? If you did, you are taking part in a tradition that goes back at least 4,000 years ago. The Babylonians of Mesopotamia held a festival to celebrate the beginning of the year at the start of spring. They believed it was a time of rebirth and renewal. So, why do we celebrate the new year in the middle of the winter now?

The January celebration of the New Year goes back to 45 B.C. and a Roman leader named Julius Caesar. The Romans had a very confusing calendar based on the movement of the moon around the earth. Many Roman leaders had added days to the calendar to make their terms longer or interfere with elections. Julius Caesar created a solar calendar [a calendar based on the earth’s rotation around the sun]. He named the first month of the year January after the Roman God, Janus – god of doorways and beginnings. Romans celebrated with a feast and made promises to Janus for the coming year.

Celebrating the New Year on January 1st fell out of favor in the Middle Ages, but became popular again when the Gregorian calendar, which included leap year, was implemented in the mid 1500s. One of the most well-known modern celebrations takes place on New Year’s Eve in Times Square in New York City. People watch a ball drop as they count down to the new year. The ball is based on a time ball. This was a device that would be dropped at predetermined times so that sailors at sea could check to make sure their clocks were accurate. The first ball was dropped in Times Square was in 1907 and people have been gathering ever since.

What Do You Think? Why do you think people celebrate the new year? What’s important to you about the New Year?

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