The question may seem strange since today a reference calendar exists for most of the planet, but in reality it has not always been so and the choice of January 1 to celebrate the New Year is relatively recent. .
While most of the world celebrates the event when it is midnight and therefore at the exact moment of entering the year 2017, let us ask ourselves why it is on January 1st that we celebrate the New Year. Indeed , it has not always been associated with this date and still is not in some cultures.
Ancient civilizations celebrated the New Year at very different times of the year. Thus, the ancient Mesopotamians celebrated the New Year for twelve days during the Akitu festival which took place around the spring equinox while the Greeks celebrated the event around the winter solstice, on December 20. As reported by the Roman Censoriuson the Egyptian side, the New Year was celebrated on July 20, according to a 1940 article to be consulted in the journal Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society.
In Roman times, the New Year was celebrated on March 1. It was the month of the beginning of the military campaigns, Mars being the god of war among the Romans. Then in 46 BC. J.-C., Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar, a solar calendar intended to replace the Roman calendar which seemed to him too fluctuating. But the application of the Julian calendar was not easy and we continued to celebrate the New Year on different dates.
It was not until 1582 and Pope Gregory XIII that the Gregorian calendar was introduced in order to correct the secular drift of the Julian calendar. First used by Catholic states, it spread to most of the world at the beginning of the 20th century for civil uses, while other calendars from different cultures are still used for religious or traditional uses.
Why January 1?
Although the choice of the date of the new year is essentially arbitrary from a planetary perspective, there is a remarkable astronomical event that occurs at this time: the Earth is closest to the sun at the beginning of January. This is called perihelion. For 2017, this point will be reached on January 4. Thus, January 1 is globally considered New Year’s Day even though some countries have not adopted it such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Nepal and Saudi Arabia.
For other cultures, celebrations are also planned on other dates. This is the case for the Islamic calendar, the Jewish calendar or even the Chinese calendar, all three of which are lunar calendars. For example, the famous Chinese New Year will fall on January 28, 2017 this year.