The origins of the Gregorian New Year

This article is also available in: Italiano

After Christmas, we decided to bring you different versions of the New Year, varied in calendars and varieties. Before doing so, however, it is necessary to review the Gregorian one, currently in use in much of the world.

New Year, Roman festival

The idea of celebrating the passing of the years even dates back to the Babylonians, the first great cultivators of human history, but over time an almost infinite number of calendars have developed, each with a different term and beginning. Like most of the Indo-European peoples, the Romans also celebrated the new year with the arrival of spring, approximately March 15, a date very similar to that of the Persian Nowruz. In 153 BC, however, Rome was engaged in a tough battle against the Iberian peoples and the need to immediately appoint a new consul led the people to bring the New Year forward by 3 and a half months.

New Year
The consul Quinto Fulvio Nobiliore, the one for whom the date was moved for the first time

This event was unique until the arrival of Julius Caesar, who in 46 BC. it will definitely change the passage of time, introducing the “his of him” Julian calendar. In the latter, the year began with Ianuarius, the month dedicated to two-faced Janus, to whom the New Year was dedicated.

The advent of the Gregorian calendar and the single date

Spreading above all in the Roman Empire, Christianity adopted the passage of time, without however committing itself to making all past pagan festivals coincide, many of which were for a long time frowned upon. In the Middle Ages the Julian calendar was adopted by most of the European peoples together with Christianity, without worrying, however, to make it end on the same date. Each country in fact chose for itself “the event to celebrate”, so much so that for a long time the Anglo-Saxon countries manifested on March 25, the day of the Incarnation, the Spaniards at their birth and the French at Easter; in Italy, moreover, the situation was not homogeneous, with regions celebrating even in September.

New Year
Pope Innocent XII

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted his calendar, the most precise of all solar ones, but it was necessary to wait for the advent of Pope Innocent XII before finally having a single date for the whole European world.

Civil and religious symbolism

Festival of obvious pagan origin, over time it has taken on various connotations, both in Christian and civil terms. According to the Church, in fact, this date would symbolize the circumcision of Jesus, even if there are some rites and confessions that associate it with a generic, albeit important, celebration of the Madonna.

New Year
New Year in Dubai

The date of January 1, however, over time has taken on very different connotations from religious ones, so much so that it has paradoxically become a symbol of secularism. An emblematic case from this point of view is Turkey, which adopted this date in 1926 following the reforms of Atatürk, who saw the uniformity on that date as a reconnection to Europe. Today it is celebrated in most of the world and has become a holiday purely linked to the passage of time.

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