New Delhi: The New Year begins on January 1 in many countries. However, there was a time when dates such as March 25 and December 25 marked the first day of the new year. For centuries, the New Year began on dates other than January 1. So, a question arises: since when did January 1 become New Year’s Day?
It All Started With The Roman Republican Calendar
Roman King Numa Pompilus revised the Roman republican calendar during his reign from 715 to 673 BCE, according to Britannica. He made this choice to replace March with January as the first month of the year. It is believed that he took this decision because January was named after Janus, the God of all Beginnings in Roman mythology, while March was named after Mars, who is the God of War.
However, evidence suggests that January 1 was not made the official start of the year until 153 BCE.
Changes Introduced In The Julian Calendar
Roman General Julius Caesar introduced more changes to the Roman republican calendar in 46 BCE, after which the calendar came to be known as the Julian calendar. It retained January 1 as the first day of the new year. The use of the calendar spread with the expansion of the Roman Empire.
Christian Countries Altered The Calendar After The Fall Of Rome
However, the calendar was altered in many Christian countries after the fall of Rome in 5th century CE. This was done so the calendar was more reflective of Christianity.
March 25, which is the date on which the Feast of Annunciation is celebrated, and December 25, which is Christmas day, became common New Year’s Days.
In Christianity, the Feast of Annunciation is the day on which angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother to Jesus Christ. It is observed nine months before Christmas.
Gregorian Calendar Restored January 1 As New Year’s Day
The Julian Calendar was not perfect as there was a miscalculation associated with leap years. Since the error was prevalent for several centuries, various events were celebrated in the wrong season.
Therefore, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a revised calendar in 1582, which came to be known as the Gregorian Calendar. Through this calendar, he solved the problem with leap year, and restored January 1 as the start of the New Year.
Italy, France, and Spain were among the countries that immediately started following the new calendar. However, Great Britain and their American colonies started following the calendar since 1757. Prior to this, they celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25.
There are some countries which that adopted the Gregorian calendar. For instance, Ethiopia celebrates its New Year in September.
In India too, several states and cultures celebrate their own new year’s days on different dates. Baisakhi in north and central India, Rongali Bihu in Assam, Vishu in Kerala, Poila Boishakh In Bengal, Tamil Putthandu in Tamil Nadu, and Bishuva Sankranti in Odisha — New Year’s Day according to the solar calendar — are celebrated on April 13/14/15.
The month of March/April also sees Hindus celebrating the new year as Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana; Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Goa and Konkan belts; Cheiraoba in Manipur; and Navreh in Kashmir. Sindhi Hindus celebrate their new year, Cheti Chand, in April, while Bestu Varas is celebrated in Gujarat around October/November as new year.