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Published 11:45 am Thursday, December 29, 2022

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The earliest known New Year celebrations were in Mesopotamia and date back to 2000 B.C.

The early Romans used March 1 as New Year’s Day. Other cultures used the autumn equinox or the winter solstice to mark the new year.

In 1582, the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Gregorian calendar, which marks January 1 as the new year.

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January is named after Janus, the god with two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward.

England didn’t adopt January 1 as New Year’s Day until 1752, more than 150 years after Scotland. Before that, the year began on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation.

The first French Republic changed its calendar in 1793, fixing New Year at the autumnal equinox. Thirteen years later, Napoleon reinstated the Gregorian calendar, now in general use.

Over a quarter of the globe’s population celebrate the Chinese or lunar new year. The Year of the Rabbit will begin on February 16. This is a time to repay debts, sacrifice to gods, and distribute “lucky money.” Chinese New Year has celebrated the second full moon after the winter solstice.

The ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Romans celebrated New Year on different days. Even within western Christianity, the day has drifted, with Christmas Day, Easter Day, and March 1 and 25 all popular. Because the festival was linked to the pagan event of Saturnalia, early Christians called for the New Year to be marked by prayer, fasting, and “humiliation.”

In Papua New Guinea, villagers mark the New Year by banging drums and burning bamboo sticks.

In Islamic countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, partying will be subdued during Ramadan.

Israel observes the western New Year, but there is a Jewish New Year in September. Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. Apples and honey are traditionally eaten.

India, 82 percent Hindu, opts for the international New Year on January 1. Tamil, Sikh, and Punjabi NewYears’ are independent celebrations on different dates. And Nepal will celebrate between April 17 and 18.

Thailand will hold unofficial celebrations on January 1. The “formal” celebrations in April feature a national water fight.

Ethiopia won’t celebrate New Year until September 11. The country has stuck to the old Julian calendar, which fails to reflect the actual length of the year.

Ancient Persians gave New Year’s gifts of eggs, which symbolized productiveness.

“Auld Lang Syne” is traditionally sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve. It was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. He may have based it on a folk song.

The word auld lang syne means “times gone by.”

In Italy, people wear red underwear on New Year’s Day to bring good luck all year.

Some families in Colombia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico stuff a large doll called Mr. Old Year with memories from the past year. They also dress him in clothes from the outgoing year. At midnight, he is set ablaze, thus burning away the bad memories.

In the USA, it is believed to be good luck to eat foods like black-eyed peas, ham, and cabbage because it is thought they bring prosperity. But if you want to have a happy new year, don’t eat lobster or chicken. Lobsters can move backward, and chickens can scratch in reverse, so it is thought these foods could bring a reversal of fortune.

We hope you enjoyed these fun little facts. And we also hope that each of you has a very Happy New Year!