Monday, July 15, 2024

Are we celebrating New Year on the wrong day?

Robin Bhuyan

Nupur Jha

After the clock struck midnight on 31st December 2023, we celebrated the arrival of 2024 with hope and anticipation. Many people begin their New Year celebrations on the night of December 31st or on January 1st, following the Gregorian calendar, which is widely used around the world. This calendar was officially introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

However, are we celebrating the actual New Year? Is January 1st the correct date for celebrating New Year, especially in India? If not, what is the truth behind the New Year, and when should we celebrate it? Let’s explore this further in detail! Once you understand this, you may also understand why your New Year Resolutions don’t work!

History Behind New Year and The Beliefs

The beginning of the new year was initially observed around 45 BC, when January 1st was considered the beginning of the year. Before that, the Roman calendar commenced in March, following the lunar calendar, which consisted of 355 days. In 153 BC, new months were added to align with the solar year. Another explanation involves Romulus, the first king of Rome and son of Mars, associating the month of March, while another king named Numa, known for his love of peace, introduced January.

According to a different belief, when Roman leader Julius Caesar came into power, he modified the calendar to honor the Roman God Janus, leading to the name the month January, which had the two-faced God Janus representing the ability to look into the future and the past, which became a symbolic beginning.

However, this change wasn’t accepted in Europe until the middle of the 16th century. With the introduction of Christianity on December 25, marking the birth of Jesus, January 1st was gradually acknowledged as a heathen celebration and the start of the new year. Pope Gregory made adjustments to the Julian calendar, officially recognizing January 1st as the beginning of the new year.

Why Is 1st January The Wrong Date For celebrating New Year?

First of all, if we look at it logically, a new year should not start in the middle of the winter, but it should start with the beginning of a new season. Spring seems to be the perfect time for celebration of a new year, as we see the blossoming of flowers and trees, and there seems to be a renewed sense of life around us, in the environment.

This is why spring season is associated with renewal and rejuvenation. Even wild animals begin to come out of hibernation. We leave the dark days of the winter behind and the days start growing longer again, allowing us to spend more time in natural light. So, does it make sense for us to celebrate New Year in the middle of the cold winters?

While many people around the world consider January 1st as the start of the new year, Indian culture and tradition recognize various dates, all of which occur at the time of spring. According to the lunar calendar, the new year is celebrated from April 13th to 15th as Baisakhi, coinciding with the spring harvest.

In Tamil culture, the new year is observed as Tamil Puthandu, while in Assam, it is Rongali Bihu. Bengal kicks off the new year with Pohela Boishakha. States like Odisha celebrate it as Bishuva Sankranti; in Kerala, it is known as Vishu. Each of these celebrations is rooted in the local customs and traditions, adding diversity to how the new year is welcomed across India.

The Fault Behind the Logic & What Indian culture Says

For a long time, Europe and America argued about whether December 25th or January 1st should be the new year.  Eventually, they settled on January 1st. But why this date and not the 3rd or 15th, or any other month, remains unclear.

We follow January 1st like the West in India, using their Lunar calendar. Hinduism, though, sees each month as spiritually significant. For example, Chaitra (March-April) is our new year, celebrating spring, growth, and fertility. The Hindu calendar has months like Caitra, Vaisakha, Jyaistha, Asadha, Sravana, Bhadra, Asvina, Kartika, Agrahayana, Pausa, Magha, and Phalguna.

But the Western calendar has been named after Roman names. Like September is ‘sept’, which means seven, ‘Octa’ ( October)  is eight, ‘Nova ‘(November) is nine, and’ Deca’ (December) is ten. So, if we go by the logic of considering March as the first month, January and February are the last two months of the year.

So, celebrating January 1st as the new year lacks an apparent reason, whether we talk about India or the West. Unlike our Hindu calendar, the Western system doesn’t explain when and why they celebrate specific dates, and this might be why resolutions often flop – it might not be the right time of year. According to Indian culture, the true new year falls around the time of March and April, a season of growth and renewal, unlike December, when nothing grows in the winter’s cold and dead season.

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