The tradition of the
New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a
mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.
With two faces, Janus
could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became
the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for
forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the
beginning of each year.
The New Year has not
always begun on January 1, and it doesn't begin on that date
everywhere today. It begins on that date only for cultures that use a
365-day solar calendar. January 1 became the beginning of the New Year
in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar developed a calendar that would more
accurately reflect the seasons than previous calendars had.
The Romans named the
first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the
guardian of doors and entrances. He was always depicted with two
faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back. Thus he could
look backward and forward at the same time. At midnight on December
31, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward
to the new. The Romans began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New
Year's Eve by giving one another branches from sacred trees for good
fortune. Later, nuts or coins imprinted with the god Janus became more
common New Year's gifts.
In the Middle Ages,
Christians changed New Year's Day to December 25, the birth of Jesus.
Then they changed it to March 25, a holiday called the Annunciation.
In the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian
calendar, and the celebration of the New Year was returned to January
The Julian and
Gregorian calendars are solar calendars. Some cultures have lunar
calendars, however. A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days
because the months are based on the phases of the moon. The Chinese
use a lunar calendar. Their new year begins at the time of the first
full moon (over the Far East) after the sun enters Aquarius- sometime
between January 19 and February 21.
Although the date for
New Year's Day is not the same in every culture, it is always a time
for celebration and for customs to ensure good luck in the coming