Strange Facts about New Year’s Day

by Seasonal Wisdom on December 30, 2009

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Happy New Year! Or, is it? The fact is it depends on who you ask and when…In much of the world, it took quite a while before Jan. 1 was actually considered the start of the year.

Throughout history, different countries have celebrated the beginning of the year on different days ranging from March 25 to Sept. 1 to Dec. 25. The French observed Easter as the start of the year for centuries. They introduced Jan. 1 as New Year’s Day in 1564, ahead of many European countries.

Within Italy, different cities started the year on conflicting days. Venice celebrated on March 1 until 1797, when it was conquered by the French Emperor Napoleon. Florence began the year on March 25 … as did England and the American Colonies until the end of 1751.

Until 1911, the Catholic Church started its ecclesiastical year on Dec. 25 at Christmas. And the traditional Asian calendar begins the Chinese New Year sometime between mid-January and late-February, depending on the year.

So, as you can see, the issue of when to start the year has been anything but clear throughout much of history.

A Bit About Janus: The month of January is named after the double-faced Roman God Janus, who looks back to the old year and forward to the new one.

That makes it an appropriate symbol for those who like to spend time reflecting during the holidays on the past year and what they would like to attract for the next one.

Lunar Treat: A special bonus this year (2009) is the full moon, partial lunar eclipse occurring right before New Year’s Day 2010. It’s exact Dec. 31, 2009 at 2:13 p.m. EST. As the second full moon of the month, it’s also a blue moon.

Images Credit: Although the moon isn’t full in the delightful vintage card above, the festive mood is certainly appropriate as we enter a new decade. All cards in this post are from riptheskull at flickr.com. She has an amazing collection of old cards. Go check it out!

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2010 for us all.

For more about the calendar: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar.

More New Year’s vintage cards and entertaining advice here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

rebecca Sweet December 30, 2009 at 8:01 pm

What a lovely way to ring in the New Year…beautiful images, too! Happy 2010 to you, Teresa!

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Seasonal Wisdom December 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Whatever day you celebrate, Rebecca, here's hoping you have a lovely new year. Teresa

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Daffodil Planter December 30, 2009 at 11:23 pm

Just what I was wondering about. Thank you for the info and the nostalgic images.

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Kim and Victoria December 31, 2009 at 3:31 am

Nice post, Teresa! It's always nice to learn new things.
Happy New Year!

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Sarah from Toronto Gardens December 31, 2009 at 2:11 pm

How amazing to think of how artificial the beginning of the New Year actually is!

These New Years Cards are beautiful. Lovely choices. Wish we could still send out cards like this.

Have a lovely New Year Teresa!

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Seasonal Wisdom December 31, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Sarah, Kim, Victoria and Daffodil Planter: Thanks very much for your nice comments. Wishing you a wonderful New Year ahead… Teresa

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Susan Reimer December 31, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Teresa,

I have linked to you on a NYD post. What fun history and what pretty postcards to share with Garden Variety readers.

All the best,

Susan

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Seasonal Wisdom December 31, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Susan:

That's great news. Can't wait to read your Garden Variety blog in The Baltimore Sun tomorrow. Thanks for linking to Seasonal Wisdom. Have a terrific 2010. Teresa

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Helen January 1, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Teresa, Great info — I'm only too familiar with that crazy shift in the year back in the 1750s. It's the genealogist's bane! There's a Robert Battersby somewhere in Britain who's still hiding from me because of it, the blighter. Have a very happy new year, whenever you decide it begins.

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Seasonal Wisdom January 1, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Hi Helen: Yes, I've heard how the change in 1752 really messed up the English calendar/traditions for a while… Enjoy your new year. May it be peaceful and prosperous for us all. Teresa

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