Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to gather with friends at Mudshark Brewery and Public House in Lake Havasu City, one of Arizona’s pioneering micro breweries, bid adios to 2022, and ring a new year.
Celebrations to close out one year and welcome in a new one are rooted in antiquity. But, as might be expected, those celebrations have changed quite a bit over the years. Perhaps one of the most fascinating changes has been the date that we celebrate, and the calendar that we use to count the days until the dawn of new year.
One of the earliest written records of a new year celebration are on Babylonian Empire era cuneiform clay tablets. These have been dated to about 2,000 years B.C. The annual celebration was held at the time of the first new moon following the vernal equinox in late March. For the Babylonians the day with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness marked the dawn of new year.
The celebration was an eleven day religious festival called Akitu. Linguists believe that word is from a Sumerian term for barley. If interpretations are correct, the festival celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat. The festival also had a political component as this was when the current king’s rule was renewed or a new king was crowned.
Most early attempts to chronicle the passing of days was based on a lunar calendar. In approximately 45 B.C., Emperor Julius Caesar ordered mathematicians and astrologers to deveise a calendar based on a solar year. This new “Julian Calendar” would replace the original Roman calendar of ten months, 304 days that legend claimed had been devised by Romulus and Remus Romulus, the twin brothers that founded the empire as well as the city of Rome.
Now the dawn of the new year was set as January 1. As an interesting bit of historic trivia the word January is derived from the Roman word Janus. Janus was the Roman god of new beginnings. Fittingly he was a two faced god. One face looked to the past, and the other to the future.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the early Christian church modified the calendar as a means to align pagan holidays with days significant to the Christian religion. As a result, in some part of Europe during the middle ages December 25, Christmas day, marked the beginning of a new year. In 1582, after consulting with mathematicians, Pope Gregory XIII created a new “Gregorian” calendar with January 1 marking the start of the new year.
About a century later that calendar was refined. It was adjusted to coincide with the earths rotation around the sun rather than with lunar cycles. But a dispute between Protesants and Catholics prevented adoption of the modern calendar by Britain and its colonies until 1752.
The history of the calendar may be conflicted and confusing. But there is no confusion about the best place to celebrate New Years Eve on the Colorado River. Mudshark Brewing and Public House in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America