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Why New Year’s? – The Washington Herald, January 1st, 1910
|| 12/31/2009 || 11:59 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Why New Year’s? – The Washington Herald, January 1st, 1910

To-day is the 158th celebration of January 1 as New Year’s Day. Although there was a general popular observance of the 1st of January as the beginning of the year, the ancient Jewish year, which opened with the 25th of March, continued long to have a legal position in Christian countries. In England it was not till 1752, however, that the 1st of January became the initial day of the legal, as it had been for a long time of the popular year. In Scotland this desirable change was made a by a decree of James VI in privy council in the year 1600. It was effected in France in 1546; in Holland, Protestant Germany, and Prussia in 1700, and in Sweden in 1753. The old Dionysian calendar is still retained in the Balkan States and in Greece, while in Russia the new style was adopted in 1902.

The ancient Egyptians had a year determined by the changes of the seasons which contained 365 days, divided into twelve months of thirty days each, with five supplementary days at the end of the year. The Greeks, in the most ancient period, reckoned according to the lunar months, twelve making a year. The Romans are said to have originally had a year of ten months, but in the time of their kings they adopted twelve months, with an occasional intercalary month. Caesar gave the months the number of days they still have.

The month of January was named after Janus, the deity supposed to preside over doors, who might very naturally be presumed also to have something to do with the opening of the year. His name was selected to represent the month Numa Pompilius, the Roman Emperor who decreed that the year should commence at this time, and added two new months to the ten into which the year had previously been divided. The deity Janus was represented by the Romans as a man with two faces, one looking backward and the other forward, implying that he stood between the old and the new year, with regard to both.

Almanacs, which are now so generally issued throughout the world with the beginning of the New Year, have been in existence for several centuries. The first important book of the character to be printed was written in Latin and issued in 1475. Almanacs in one form or another have played an important part in literature and history. In the United States the first almanac is said to have been published in Philadelphia in 1687. In 1731 Benjamin Franklin published the first issue of “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” which was continued for twenty-five years.

The Nautical Almanac, the most valuable of its character, was first published in 1767. In modern times the widely known “Almanach de Gotha,” printed both in German and French, contains much valuable statistical information. Whittaker’s Almanac, the Stateman’s Year Book, Hazell’s Annual, and books of that character are invaluable to-day by reason of the important information they contain.


January 1 is the birthday of Paul Revere (1735), Anthony Wayne (1745), Edmund Burke (1730), and the first American flag was used by Washington on January 1, 1776, at Cambridge, Mass.



This newspaper article was transcribed from a scan of the original newspaper article. The document was obtained from the Chronicling America newspaper collection and is in the public domain. It is being republished here in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.



Happy Nowruz !!
|| 3/20/2008 || 3:25 pm || Comments Off on Happy Nowruz !! || ||

Last night I celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year, with some of my close friends for the second year in a row. Like the ancient peoples written in our history books, I am a fan of all celebrations that bring people together, and Nowruz has been bringing people together for over 15,000 years– making it one of mankind’s oldest celebrations.

The previous year I was given the sabzeh, or green wheat sprouts in a small dish, which represents rebirth. This year I saw my first traditional Haft-Seen display (pictured). Each element in the display has a specific meaning for the next year.

Via Wikipedia, some of the Haft-Seen items are:


* sabzeh – wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
* samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
* senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree – symbolizing love
* sÄ«r – garlic – symbolizing medicine
* sÄ«b – apples – symbolizing beauty and health
* somaq – sumac berries – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
* serkeh – vinegar – symbolizing age and patience

Other items on the table may include:

* Sonbol – Hyacinth (flower)
* Sekkeh – Coins – representative of wealth
* traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
* dried nuts, berries and raisins (Aajeel)
* lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
* a mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty)
* decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
* a bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving)
* a bowl of water with an orange in it (the earth floating in space)
* rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
* the national colours, for a patriotic touch
* a holy book (e.g., the Qur’an, Avesta, Bible, Torah, or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnama or the Divan of Hafez)

We stayed up to 1:48am to celebrate start of year 1387 (Anno Persico) and shortly after the new day began I poured rose water on my hands, rubbed it on my face, and looked into a small mirror. I am told its a ceremonial way of putting the year behind you— and what a great year 1386 was for me! I expect 1387 to be filled with intrigue, excitement, and fun.


I’d like to take a brief moment to expound on how amazing the Persian Calendar is. Technically, it is one of the few astronomical solar calendars that are still used today. Interestingly, it is more precise than the Gregorian calendars that have been in used in Europe (and America) since 1582. Each month is not based on the arbitrary division of months as we have today, rather each month was determined by the transit of the sun into the corresponding zodiac region.

By 1079 (C.E.), the Jalali Calendar, a precursor to the modern Persian Calendar, had the solar year calculated to seven decimal places (365.2421986) and in today’s Gregorian Calendar the days in a year is calculated to only six decimal places (365.242190). Also, since the astronomical observations and predictions used in Jalali Calendar were based on a yearly review of the astronomical ephemeris, the calendar never required a leap years nor were seasons ever off by more than a day. All in all, I am very impressed with their calendar and how its changed over the years to include other cultural influences.

Last year’s research on the zodiac found in Battista Agnese’s portolan from 1544 shows that even as far back as 400+ years ago New Years was celebrated in the spring. I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at this zodiac and found one important indicator of New Years.

There is only one point on the double concentric circle where there is a line that bisects both the astrological calendar and the Gregorian calendar. This line falls around March 10th (see below), however I have been unable to find out why that specific date was chosen for this specific calendar. I am still trying to reconcile this anomaly, but hope to have a definitive answer sometime in the not-so-distant future.





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