Civilizations around the world have celebrated the start of each new year for at least four millennia, but with the many changes made to the calendar, the celebration of New Year’s has also changed over time.
The earliest recorded festivities date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox — the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness — heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days.
The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox. A later king, Numa Pompilius, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius.
Over centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun. Emperor Julius Caesar decided to fix the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today, and with this reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year.
In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31 — New Year’s Eve — and continue into the early hours of January 1.
Different countries have many different traditional dishes for this day, such as legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success, and pork, because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures. In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at the stroke of midnight.
As we ring in the new year amid fireworks, toasts, and family and friends, let us reaffirm our Orlando Health resolution to continue serving and supporting our patients, guests, physicians and fellow team members.
Here’s to a bright new year and fond farewell to the old! Have a safe, healthy and happy New Year!