Why is January 1 New Year’s Day? I mean, it is how most of us grew up, and it is what our culture tells us is New Years, but why? The bottom line is because someone said it was, and pretty much every around them said, "Okay, why not?" Yes, there is more to it than that, but it's a pretty good summation as to why January 1 is not recognized as New Year’s Day by everyone everywhere. Here is why and why it matters.
Our calendar is the Gregorian Calendar because it was decreed as the standard by Pope Gregory XIII. Most people at the time, in the Near East and Europe, were already using the similar Julian Calendar, named after Julius Caesar. The Gregorian Calendar corrected the measurement of a year by subtracting 11 minutes 35 seconds . It may not seem like much, but in the 874 years from when the Julian Calendar was changed to the Gregorian Calendar, 14 days were lost. Little things can make a big difference it we let them.
Because our calendar is based on the rotation of the earth around the sun, our calendar is a solar calendar. Lunar calendars, by contrast, are based on the phases of the moon and seasons. The Islamic Calendar is one of these. The problem with a straight lunar calendar is that they become out of sync with the sun's cycle. To adjust for this, many ancient cultures developed the lunisolar calendar, based on seasons and moon cycles augmented with sun cycles and bring harmony to the two. The Hebrew and Chinese Calendars are examples of this type.
But here is the question. Based on circular orbits, where is the starting point?
The Julian and Gregorian Calendars chose to begin between the Winter Solstice months (December and January) when the earth is closest to the sun. January was named for Janus, the two-faced deity, one of his faces looked towards the past and the other to the future. It made sense to name the incoming month after him.
Over millennia, other cultures have taken various approaches based on seedtime, harvest, or religious reasons. The Jewish Calendar has New Year's Eve in the first part of September. The Chinese Calendar's New Years' celebration falls between late January and mid-February (this year, it is February 12.) There are New Year celebrations around the first of spring and all year long. Don't get me wrong; there are scientific and astronomical reasons for when cultures have chosen to recognize New Year. The thing is, though, they have chosen it. It is not chiseled in some cosmic law book, like gravity or light speed. It is an act of humans trying to measure and apply meaning to the world around us.
Here is the point, we often choose to look at such dates as a chance to renew, challenge ourselves, and make new resolutions. There are times when social pressure may make it easier to be open about setting new goals. We wait for the midnight or sunset hour as if some mystical transformational event will occur. If we stumble, which we often do because we are human, we sigh, surrender, and wait for the next event. Don't wait. You are the magic that makes the changes. Your first minute, first hour, first day, new year, or new life is up to you, don’t wait. Regardless of sun, moon, season, or where earth is in the universe, your new beginning is anytime, anywhere, including right now. You “don't need no stinkin'” calendar. Remember, where there is life, there is hope, and where there is hope, there is light. We hope you and those you care about all have a wonderful holiday season as we venture into 2021. We wish you a Happy New Year today, or on January 1, or next month, or next Spring, or whenever, choose the year of the YOU and make it happen.