People across the world celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31. While not all cultures and countries join in the celebration, the vast number of people that do make this holiday one of the most unifying, world-wide celebrations humanity shares.
In 2000 B.C. Babylon, located 59 miles southwest of present-day Baghdad, Iraq, in Mesopotamia, marks the spot where the first recorded celebration of the new year took place, according to History.com,
It was celebrated at the vernal equinox, when there is equal daylight and darkness. A ritual was held on each day of the 11-day religious celebration called Atiku, meaning barley in Sumerian, and marked the victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the sea goddess Tiamat.
The Babylonians also took this time to either crown the new king or symbolically renew the current ruler’s divine reign.
In pre-Christian Rome, the people followed a 10-month calendar with 304 days.
“Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today,” History.com reports.
Caesar also “instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future.”
The Romans celebrated the New Year “by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties.”
Early Christians changed the New Year to December 25 and then March 25 – days with more religious significance – but with the creation of and adoption of the Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, the New Year was changed back to January 1.
The long tradition of celebrating of New Year’s Eve and Day has continued in the United States.
The U.S. New Year’s celebration is one of three national holidays America shares with many other countries around the world – a holiday that transcends religions and seems to unite all of humanity, evidenced by the news agencies that each hour report which area of the Earth is celebrating the new year.
In America, the celebration of New Year’s Eve in Time’s Square began in 1904 and with its 1907 inaugural ball-drop, has become iconic.
The tradition of dropping the ball began in 1907 when the ball was 700 pounds of iron and wood fixed with 100 25-watt light bulbs. The ball was created by immigrant metalworker Jacob Starr, whose sign making company was originally responsible for dropping the ball each year, according to timessquarenyc.org.
There are only two years the ball was not dropped – 1942 and 1943 – when there was a wartime dim out in NYC, and people gathered for “a minute of silence followed by the ringing of chimes from sound trucks parked at the base of the tower—a harkening-back to the earlier celebrations at Trinity Church, where crowds would gather to ‘ring out the old, ring in the new.’”
The ball was replaced in 1950 with a 400-pound, wrought iron ball, and again in 1955 with an aluminum ball weighing only 150 pounds.
In 1981, the ball was changed again to look like an apple in conjunction with the “I Love New York” campaign.
In 1988 the ball was changed back to its traditional white light sphere, upgraded in 1995 to be more colorful, but the aluminum sphere dropped for the last time in 1998.
For the 2000’s, the ball was redesigned for a new century, and has evolved with technology and innovation, currently weighing in at 11,875 pounds, and made of Waterford crystal triangles with 32,256 LED lights.
The idea of dropping a time ball came from England. “The first ‘time-ball’ was installed atop England’s Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o’clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (a vital navigational instrument),” the timessquarenyc.org website indicates.
Smaller cities and towns host their own celebrations for families, kids and adults, from DJ’d ice skating in downtown Rapid City hosted by city organizers to dance parties hosted by local businesses.
Individuals still participate in what might be described as “raucous parties” that may be similar to the Roman parties 4,000 years ago.
As with most celebrations, when the adults have donned themselves in their best attire, dropped off their kids with grandparents or sitters, and blazed out to the party place of choice, everyone is encouraged to follow smart and safe celebration practices, such as arranging for designated drivers, ensuring women travel in pairs or small groups, maintaining a positive attitude throughout the celebrations and remembering that we all want to begin this year with as much joy and peace as we can experience.