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The Old New Year

The New Year wasn't always celebrated on January 1.

The ancient Babylonians are thought to have been the first to celebrate a new year. They looked for the first New Moon after the first day of spring. According to modern calendars, this would have been late March, several weeks after January 1.

The Babylonians also celebrated the New Year for 11 days, with different celebrations taking place each day.

In 153 B.C., the Roman Senate declared that the New Year began on January 1.

During the Middle Ages, many people celebrated the New Year on March 25, on a holiday called Annunciation Day. But by 1600, January 1 was again the first day of every New Year.

These dates are, of course, appearing on the Western calendar. Other cultures celebrate the New Year on different days:

  • Chinese New Year, for instance, marks the first New Moon of the calendar year. This celebration lasts 15 days.
  • Japanese New Year (Shogatsu) is on January 1 and lasts three days.
  • Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) is celebrated in the fall.
  • Islamic New Year (The First of Muharram) is usually celebrated in the spring.

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