Knowing when the new year began was vital for existence – planting, harvesting, rainy season, dry season. And honoring the right gods at the right time was crucial. Humans did it for 2.5 million years before the Sumerians finally wrote it down in 3300 BCE. The new lunar year officially began on the first moon after the Vernal (spring) Equinox.
In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar remade the calendar, adding 67 days, to make it 46 BCE, and changing New Year’s Day from March to January 1st. But the new Julian calendar was still a lunar calendar. And rulers played hard and fast with time, adding and subtracting days as it served their purposes. So the January New Year’s date did not really take. Even in the Middle Ages, most Europeans were still celebrating the New Year in March.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar from a lunar to a solar cycle, and added one day every four years (Leap Year), to catch up missing time. Europe slowly fell in line – very slowly. Turkey was the last country to switch – in 1927!
For the Chinese, New Year’s Day will be Friday, February 16 – celebrated with fabulous parades of mammoth twisting dragons. The year will be the same—2018—because the Chinese and Japanese started a new count with the reign of each new emperor. Japan changed from Chinese to Western New Year’s Day when the country modernized in the late 19th century.
For the Mayans, New Year’s Day will be July 26, and the year will be 5132, dating from Aug. 11, 3114 BCE, the creation of their incredibly accurate calendar.
Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, will be celebrated at dusk on Sunday, September 9th, and the year will be 5778, the date of Creation being 3761 BCE. The Islamic new year will start on at dusk on Tuesday, September 11, and the year will be 1439.