Holidays! There are enough near the year’s end for one to ask if all this celebrating is necessary. After all, does it ever end? From late November until January it’s one observance after another and more work than a border collie does rounding up stray sheep.

Our annual Thanksgiving feast with Black Friday following kicks off the year-end holidays. December is consumed with shopping, hanging decorations, selecting the perfect Christmas tree, gift wrapping and preparing holiday parties and meals. No sooner do you finish, and along comes New Years. It’s as if there’s no break for the weary. No down time between Turkey Day and Jan 1.

Thank goodness for all the televised bowl games. They break up the week and quickly become a legitimate reason to take a much needed break.

Some, of course, love celebrating the arrival of the New Year. Good for them. After all, it ushers in a new time and wipes clean the slate of errors made the year before. Tradition says it allows us to start anew, and, if you don’t over-slosh on the beverages, you’ll remember the good time you had.

If you do, you’ll pay heavily by staying awake all day, taking aspirin and drinking coffee. You’ll wonder why you began the New Year so foolishly and vow never to do it again. That’ll last about as long as your New Year’s resolutions. By Super Bowl Sunday all will be forgotten.

Surprisingly, New Years celebration is more than twice as old as the celebration of Christmas. The world’s civilizations have been celebrating the new year for at least four millennia. 

Although not on the same date we celebrate, the earliest recorded festivities date back 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox (spring), heralded a new year.

Throughout antiquity, sophisticated calendars had been developed. Many attached New Year’s Day to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. Meanwhile, the first day of the Chinese new year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Eventually, Julius Caesar recognized the need for reform. In order to realign the Roman calendar with the sun, Caesar added 90 more days to the year 46 BC when he introduced his new Julian calendar and instituted Jan.1 as the first day of the year. This was done partly to honor the month’s namesake, Janus, the Roman god of beginnings whose two faces looked back into the past and forward into the future.

In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced Jan. 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance. In western Europe during the Middle Ages, the Julian calendar was still in use. Depending upon locale, authorities moved New Year's Day variously, to one of several other days. Among them were March 1, March 25, Easter, Sept. 1 and Dec. 25. In 1582, this brought on changes by Pope Gregory XIII who re-established Jan. 1 as New Year’s Day.

The widespread official adoption of the Gregorian calendar and marking Jan. 1 as the beginning of a new year is almost global now. Regional or local use of other calendars do continue, along with the cultural and religious practices that accompany them. In Latin America, Israel, China, India and other countries, they continue to celebrate the new year on different dates.

Today, most New Year’s festivities begin on New Year’s Eve, the last day of the Gregorian calendar, and continue into the early hours of Jan. 1. Common traditions include attending parties, drinking heavily, eating special foods, making resolutions and watching fireworks displays.

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