The earliest recorded festivities date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the start of a new year was heralded by the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness. They marked the occasion with Akitu which was a massive religious festival. For 11 days they did a different ritual each day.
In Egypt, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius.
The first day of the Chinese New Year occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. Janus’s two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to…
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