Father Time and Baby New Year

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Two common images of the New Year are Father Time and Baby New Year. They quite literally symbolize the end of one year and the beginning of the next, but they also have their roots in mythology and longstanding practice.

Father Time has his roots in Chronos, the Greek god of Time, and in the Holly King of Celtic tradition. Both are depicted in ancient stories as an old man, usually bearded, wearing robes and wise old expression. He usually carries a timepiece of some sort, reinforcing the idea that time is passing (and passing him by).

Baby New Year has its roots in the Greek god Dionysus, who was commonly depicted as a baby born at the end of what is our modern calendar year. Baby New Year is what lies ahead, the promise of rebirth and a new start, as the calendar turns over and January gives way to February all over again.

In the popular imagery nowadays, Father Time imparts his wisdom to Baby New Year, and the human experience begins anew in a new calendar year. The pair of images mirror the cycle of human life, compressed into 365 days.

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White