New Year Origin
New Year’s celebrations have been around
for a long time in one form or another. They can be traced all the way back to the
Babylonians at around 2,000 B.C.
New Year’s day was not always celebrated on January 1st as it is
today. In its earliest times, the new year was celebrated in the spring, as new life
began to emerge in the world. This tradition is quite sensible in relation to the
seasons, however ancient cultures struggled to create a calendar that could retain
alignment with the sun.
Roman New Year Traditions
The Romans went through several versions of calendars in which they inevitably changed
the first day of the year to January first. Their final change to the calendar was made
by Julius Caesar in the year 46 B.C. (the Julian calendar). Caesar also adopted January
1st as the first day of the year. The Julian calendar became the basis for our current
calendar, so alas New Year’s Day is found at the top of the calendar on January
Certain Roman traditions of the new year have remained in some form to
this day. Among the many Roman gods was Janus a two-headed god. Janus was considered to
be the god of beginnings and endings, and the guardian of gates and doors. One of the
heads of Janus faced forward and the other looked back. This figure was a symbol of good
beginnings and endings to the Romans. One head was able to look backward to reflect upon
what had passed, while the other could look forward to what was coming.
The word Janus is closely related to the word January. The Romans
considered the significance of Janus when they established their calendar, and named the
first month after him. This Roman belief has continued on in tradition to this day. With
New Year’s resolutions, many people reflect on mistakes of the past year and
resolve to do better in the year to come.
In many ways, the modern celebration of New Year’s Day carries
on ancient traditions. The holiday itself is celebrated from New Year’s Eve (in the
old year) continued on through New Year’s Day. By observing the holiday in this
manner, we are encouraged to look at the previous year as it passes away, and to welcome
the new one with renewed enthusiasm and desire to improve ourselves.
New York and the New Year’s Eve Ball
On New Year’s Eve, families and friends gather together to enjoy each other’s
company as the old year comes to a close. Since 1907 it has been a tradition of New
Yorkers to gather in Times Square to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop down the
pole. This tradition has since been shared with the rest of the nation with the advent of
emerging television and satellite technologies.
Common New Year Traditions
Another tradition that has endured through time is the belief that starting off the new
year with an enjoyable practice can lead to good luck through the year. This has led to
the following traditions:
|Playing a song such as “Auld Lang
|Watching or lighting fireworks
|Honking horns or blowing whistles
|Sharing a New Year’s kiss
|Having drinks together (and a toast)
These traditions represent historical New Year’s activities
which people engaged in to ward off the negative aspects of the prior year and to
encourage better luck in the new. The new year gives everyone a chance to put aside
burdens and detrimental habits to pursue behaviors that will bring greater
While many eyes are focused on the ball at New York on New Year’s Eve, the focus of
New Year’s Day sweeps across the country to Pasadena, California. The Tournament of
Roses parade is a tradition that many American’s wake up to enjoy on New
Year’s Day. This parade which has taken place since 1890 includes floats which are
decorated entirely with flowers and plant matter. It also features marching bands from
across the nation. This parade originated in an effort to show the country what a
pleasant place California is to be in the winter time. The tradition continues to this
day, and with few exceptions, the weather for the parade has been mild and rain-free.
Football was added to the Tournament of Roses festivities in 1902.
This was temporarily abandoned for a Roman Chariot race, but by 1916 football returned.
This New Year’s Day football game became known as the Rose Bowl after a stadium was
built for this purpose in 1922. The Rose Bowl has since offered exciting college football
which is usually played on New Year’s day.
New Year’s Day Activities
New Year’s Day is an opportunity to share time with family and friends in a variety
of activities. The games and parades are commonly followed by barbeques and parties where
good food and good times are the focus. New Year’s Day has traditionally been a day
to enjoy a happiness that will hopefully endure throughout the year.
With the old year gone, and the new year just beginning, it is a great time to fulfill
another New Year’s tradition—to make resolutions. On New Year’s Day
people begin to work at goals that will improve their circumstances. Some people achieve
their New Year’s resolutions, while others lose sight of them over time. Here are a
few ideas for making resolutions and a few ideas on how to achieve them:
|Set family goals as well as personal
It is good to set personal goals, but it can also be beneficial to set goals as a family.
Sit down as a family and discuss a few ideas that you would like to achieve together.
Working on goals as a family can be fun and rewarding. An additional benefit of working
on goals as a family is that it gives you a support system that can make it easier to
|Don’t make more resolutions than you can
Set only a few goals that are easy to remember and which can reasonably be accomplished.
Making too many goals can complicate your efforts and make you lose sight of many of them
altogether. Only make as many resolutions as you can realistically
|Write your goals down and post them.
It is amazing how the rush of life can quickly overtake the genuinely good intentions of
worthy goals. When goals are not written down, they can be easily forgotten. Write your
goals down and post them somewhere where you will see them regularly. When your goals are
written and clearly visible, you will be more likely to remember them and to follow good
habits that lead to success.
(A printable New Year Resolution Form for kids is available at the end of our New Year Story, "Archie's New Year.")
|Choose at least one resolution that will make you happy
now. Many of the goals people choose are ones that lead to greater stress,
discomfort, or displeasure, at least for the short term. A few examples are dieting,
getting a better job, and quitting a bad habit like smoking. These are worthy goals, but
they frequently cause greater stress while trying to achieve them. In addition to these
kinds of goals, choose a goal that increases your happiness such as: taking an hour to
relax each day, starting a new hobby, or spending time daily with the kids. These kinds
of goals can offset some of the discomfort caused by your more difficult goals and
perhaps make all of your goals easier to accomplish.
The celebration of New Year’s Day is all about putting the past
behind and looking forward to new and exciting things to come. Although Roman
civilization passed from existence long ago, its traditions continue to influence the way
New Year’s Day is celebrated today. With every new year, there comes a new chance
and a new hope to grow closer to the dreams we live for. May the traditions of New
Year’s Day always free you from your past and give you something to look forward to
in the future.
New Year's Day Treat: A Family Fun Shop Original Recipe
"Rocky Road Cookies"
These cookies are full of surprises and great taste for sweet things to
See our short New Year's Day story for kids called "Archie's New Year." This story teaches kids the importance of New Year's resolutions and gives them a form to help them keep them.
Try Our New Year's Day Word Games
"New Year's Day Crossword Puzzle" (69 KB)
"New Year's Day Word
Search" (83 KB)
- Article by Wes Fessler
- Tournament of Roses History “Rose Bowl Game History”
http://www.tournamentofroses.com/history/gamehistory.asp [Accessed 24 June 2007]
- Tournament of Roses History “History”
http://www.tournamentofroses.com/history/ [Accessed 24 June 2007]
- Time Square Alliance “New Year’s Eve Ball”
http://www.timessquarenyc.org/nye/nye_ball.html [Accessed 24 June 2007]
- Inspiration Line “Trivia, Brainteasers, & Fascinating
http://www.inspirationline.com/Brainteaser/newyear.htm [Accessed 24 June 2007]
- Novareinna.com “Janus Roman God of Beginnings”
http://www.novareinna.com/festive/janus.html [Accessed 24 June 2007]
- World Mysteries “Aztec and Mayan Calendars”
http://www.world-mysteries.com/sar_3.htm [Accessed 24 June