Humans have recognized and celebrated the passing of the old year and the beginning of a new one for thousands of years. The timing of the event was as diverse as the many cultures and even today, not everyone celebrates the New Year at the same time or the same way.
The Ancients marked time and kept a calendar
Early peoples depended on their shamans and priests to determine when they should plant and harvest. They looked to the skies and noticed that the sun, moon and stars were predictable in their motions. Depending on the heavens to tell them when spring was coming, or when winter arrived soon became a necessary skill that made the difference in survival or famine. In most early cultures, a new year was celebrated in the spring. The greening of the fields and the birth young livestock was a sign that the cycle of seasons was starting over again. Moon phases were documented and were generally accepted as a timetable for counting the years. Evidence shows that many standing stones or stone circles throughout the world line up with the seasonal rising and setting of various celestial objects. Some are tens of thousands years old. Scientists have determined their ages by counting back to where the various points align, since the night sky objects slowly change position over the years. Humans have been celebrating the New Year long before recorded history and have some interesting customs and beliefs to go along with it.
The custom of New Year resolutions is ancient
Are you determined to keep your New Year’s resolutions? Thank the ancient Babylonians. They invented the practice of making pledges or promises upon the new year over 4,000 years ago. So the resolution to eat healthier, exercise more and be better organized wasn’t a modern idea. Seems humans felt the need to turn over a new leaf each year long before many other customs and ideas were invented. The Babylonians had a little different spin on the practice though. They believed that the promises they made each new year were heard by their gods and they wouldn’t take very kindly to any resolutions that were not completed and would punish anyone who did not live up to what they pledged. We have only ourselves to answer to if we do not keep ours.
The Romans gave us the New Year in January
The vernal equinox that started spring was the most popular New Year’s Day for many ancient peoples, however the Romans decided to change this and start the year in January. Their god Janus (who January was named for) had two faces. One looked back to the past and the other forward to the future. They thought it quite appropriate that he could see the old year and the new one at the same time. The Romans took this new way of calculating the start of a year wherever they conquered and since that included most of what is now Europe, the New World followed the tradition. When the calendar was standardized by Pope Gregory Xlll in 1582, countries slowly adopted the uniform Gregorian calendar. Most of the world now accepts January 1st as the start of a new year, however there are still cultures that count the passing of time differently. Chinese and Jewish New Years are regulated by the lunar cycle and extra days or months added to make up for that pesky problem of 12.4 lunar months each solar year. The cultural new year is used for important events such as weddings, funerals, religious celebrations and business decisions. The Gregorian calendar is used as a standardized way for a global population to communicate better.
Welcome 2022 with a plan
Today is the first day of 2022 and just like our ancient counterparts, it is time for making plans and looking toward spring. Gardeners around the world are deciding on flowers, vegetables, shrubs, garden art and water features to come. We wear out the pages of the print catalogs and search for new offerings on the internet. The new year is a time of promise for us and we eagerly celebrate its arrival. I’m already placing orders for seeds. If you remember, the last two years, the demand for seeds and plants well exceeded the supply and I’m going to make sure I get everything I want this time around. Place your orders early, so you won’t be disappointed.
This year's resolutions should include helping the environment
Let’s make New Year’s resolutions to conserve water, reduce your single-use plastic consumption and avoid pesticides and chemicals. My resolution is to do my part, even if it is small, to leave the Earth in better shape this year than it was in 2021. I’m going to plant for the fragile pollinator population and grow as much of my own food as possible. What I can’t grow, I resolve to buy as much locally as I can. This helps small farmers and reduces food miles and carbon consumption. The ancients would probably be puzzled at these resolutions, however they would all understand the desire to reduce waste and conserve resources. If we all did just a little bit, it could make a huge difference.
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