The month of January gets its name from Janus—chief among the ancient Roman deities—and is a remnant of the ancient Roman calendar. This two-faced god (one looking ahead, one looking behind), was honored by having his chief festival on the first day of the New Year. Fittingly, the Roman celebrants took their cue from Janus, and spent the day looking both backwards, in reflection, and ahead, in planning for the New Year.
They also believed that what they sowed on the first day of the New Year would carry with them throughout the rest of the year. Thus, it was a day of giving presents, abstaining from impure or cruel thoughts, postponing and ending quarrels, and generally trying to be nice to each other. Presents and foods were given freely to others and in tribute to Janus.
New Year ushers in the festive spirit. Every family, region and country has it’s own tradition, but for many cultures, New Year symbolises a fresh start, a new chance at happiness after learning the lessons of the past.
Different customs and traditions give special importance to the New Year celebrations that can fall almost every month across the globe, with some religions celebrating in spring and others in autumn.
Across the globe, so many people make it a grand affair to welcome the coming year, often splurging on activities like spring cleaning, and wearing a new set of clothes or spending the day with family enjoying fun and excitement as a symbol of how the year will progress.
In Australia, we’ve observed 1 January, the first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar as New Year’s Day.
The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar, is internationally the most widely used civil calendar. It has been the unofficial global standard for decades, recognised by international institutions such as the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union. But it hasn’t always been that way.
While the Gregorian calendar is used by most countries; many traditions and religious feasts around the world are celebrated using the other calendars.
The Murador Aboriginal tribe of Western Australia celebrated New Years on what is known on present day calendars to be 30 October. A time of reconciliation and celebration of friendship, the Murador tribe were said to have placed great importance on the past as well as the year that was coming.
The Balinese New Year, based on the Saka or Balinese-Javanese Calendar, is called Nyepi, and it falls on Bali’s Lunar New Year. It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation observed from 6 am until 6 am the next morning. Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. Although Nyepi is a primarily Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt, although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, except for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day.
Jewish New Year celebrations begin on sundown of the first day of September or October and ends on sundown of the 10th day.
Gregorian or Christian New Year celebrations begin with parties, carnivals, dinners and end with family visits.
Hindus celebrate New Year almost every month because of the diversity in their culture, and the tradition is celebrated with a lot of jollity and vigour across India.
The way of celebrating New Year is a little different in Celtic religion. They welcome their ancestors and offer them food and drinks, called ‘Up-Helly-Aa’, locals dress up like Vikings and parade around the town. They hold burning torchlights to cast away darkness in the area. This ceremony ends up with launching a burning Viking ship and bonfires.
The Muslims celebrate the day in remembrance of Prophet Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina.
Bahai New Year begins at the sunset rather than midnight.
In contrast to this, Buddhist New Year is celebrated in January (Mahayan countries) and April (in other Buddhist countries).
According to the Parsi mythology, New Year is the time when universe is recreated.
Some cultures like Chile use the day to remember those who have died, spending the last night of the year at the graveside of relatives.
Some cultures forgive past arguments with fistcuffs to settle and end old transgressions. Regions across the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes have traditional fighting festivals and ceremonies where the residents save up their grievances all year then take justice into their own fists at Takanakuy (glad I don’t live there!) and New Years Day in Ireland is also known as Day of the Buttered Bread (or Sandwich, depending on the Gaelic translation you use.) Tradition says buttered bread placed outside the front door symbolizes an absence of hunger in the household, and presumably for the year to come.
A very old tradition of ‘first-footing’ is practiced very seriously in Scotland still. When the clock strikes at midnight, a male stranger must be the first person to enter the house. It is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity for the family. The visitor must bring with him lump of coal, bread and some salt. These visitors traditionally greet the family members saying "Lang may your lum reek" (Long may your chimney smoke).
There is also an old tradition of gift-giving in Europe. It is considered the best way to give warm New Year blessings and wishes.
March 25 marked the start of the new year in Great Britain (except for Scotland) until 1752. Both a religious and secular holiday, it was called both “Lady Day” and the “Feast of the Annunciation.” It marked nine months before the birth of Christ, and was recognized as the day that Mary was visited by Archangel Gabriel, and told of her upcoming delivery.
A big day in the religious calendar, it has also been named as the date that Adam and Eve were kicked out of paradise, the day that Cain killed Abel, that Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, that St. John “the Baptist” and St. James were beheaded, and that St. Peter was released from prison. (Oddly, doomsday prophets in the 10th century foretold that the world would come to an end when the “Feast of Annunciation” and Good Friday happened on the same day—which happened in 970.)
In addition to its religious significance, Lady Day also had an important secular meaning. March 25 was the first of the “quarter days,” which marked off each quarter of the year, and created a framework for tax and rent collection (the new tax year in the UK starts on April 6), as well as marking the start of traditionally year-long contracts for servants and laborers.
In Europe, people follow a custom of making noise to welcome the New Year. This is done to scare off all the bad spirits. People burst massive firecrackers, blow horns, trumpets, whistles and bells to ring in the fresh New Year.
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year, occurs every year on the new moon of the first lunar month, roughly lining up with ‘Lichun’, or the very beginning of the Northern spring.
The exact date can fall any time between 21 January and 21 February (inclusive) of the Gregorian Calendar. Traditionally, years were marked by one of twelve Earthly Branches, represented by an animal, and one of ten Heavenly Stems, which correspond to the five elements. This combination cycles every 60 years. It is the most important Chinese celebration of the year.
The Vietnamese New Year is the Tết Nguyên Đán which most times is the same day as the Chinese New Year due to the Vietnamese using Chinese calendar.
The Tibetan New Year is Losar and falls from January through March.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the traditional New Year follows the Julian tradition and falls on 14 January each year.
The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar, was the predominant calendar in most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was refined and superseded by the Gregorian calendar in 1582.
The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months.
The Gregorian calendar has the same months and month lengths as the Julian calendar, but inserts leap days according to a different rule. Consequently, over the course of four centurys, the Julian calendar is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar.
For instance, New Years Day in the Julian calendar is 14 January; whereas it falls on 1 January in the Gregorian.
The Julian calendar has been replaced as the civil calendar by the Gregorian calendar in almost all countries which formerly used it, although it continued to be the civil calendar of some countries right through into the 20th century.
Where Eastern Orthodoxy predominates, many communities celebrate both the Gregorian and Julian New Year holidays, with the Gregorian day celebrated as a civic holiday, and the Julian date as the "Old New Year", a religious holiday right through the 20th century.
It helps to make sense of this tradition if you remember that in Europe mid-January is the coldest darkest point in the northern winter, and today, large-scale celebrations take place throughout Europe, Latin America, and other regions and are all about indulgence and excess, filled with ‘special’ food.
The orthodox churches of Georgia, Jerusalem, Russia, the Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine will also usher in the Gregorian New Year date with a huge clan gathering and celebrate with a rich and opulent feast.
I bet, if you’ve read down this far, you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Quatre Saisons Farm?
Well. Wonder no more…..Bring on the bacon!
Because pigs root forward while they forage for food (as opposed to cows, who stand still, or chickens, who scratch backwards), pork in all forms is enjoyed by many hoping to embrace the challenges and adventures that await in the coming year.
I am delighted to have been able to supply the centre piece for one big Gregorian New Year community celebration out west.
16 fat happy naughty little porkers out the farm gate.
Phew! What a relief!
Peace and sanity again descends on my little farm……