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New Year history

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Jausten
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Not all countries celebrate New Year at the same time, nor in the same way. This is because people in different parts of the world use different calendars. Long ago, people divided time into days, months, and years. Some calendars are based on the movement of the moon, others are based on the position of the sun, while others are based on both the sun and the moon. All over the world, there are special beliefs about New Year.



Ancient Egypt



In ancient Egypt, New Year was celebrated at the time the River Nile flooded, which was near the end of September. The flooding of the Nile was very important because without it, the people would not have been able to grow crops in the dry desert.

At New Year, statues of the god, Amon and his wife and son were taken up the Nile by boat. Singing, dancing, and feasting was done for a month, and then the statues were taken back to the temple.



Babylonia



Babylonia lay in what is now the country of Iraq. Their New Year was in the Spring. During the festival, the king was stripped of his clothes and sent away, and for a few days everyone could do just what they liked. Then the king returned in a grand procession, dressed in fine robes. Then, everyone had to return to work and behave properly. Thus, each New Year, the people made a new start to their lives.



The Romans



For a long time the Romans celebrated New Year on the first of March. Then, in 46 BC, the Emperor Julius Caesar began a new calendar. It was the calendar that we still use today, and thus the New Year date was changed to the first day of January.

January is named after the Roman god Janus, who was always shown as having two heads. He looked back to the last year and forward to the new one.



The Roman New Year festival was called the Calends, and people decorated their homes and gave each other gifts. Slaves and their masters ate and drank together, and people could do what they wanted to for a few days.



The Celts



The Celts were the people who lived in Gaul, now called France, and parts of Britain before the Romans arrived there. Their New Year festival was called Samhain. It took place at the end of October, and Samhain means 'summer's end'.

At Samhain, the Celts gathered mistletoe to keep ghosts away, because they believed this was the time when the ghosts of the dead returned to haunt the living.



Jewish New Year



The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. It is a holy time when people think of the things they have done wrong in the past, and they promise to do better in the future.

Special services are held in synagogues, and an instrument called a Shofar, which is made from a ram's horn is played. Children are given new clothes, and New Year loaves are baked and fruit is eaten to remind people of harvest time.



Muslim New Year



The Muslim calendar is based on the movements of the moon, so the date of New Year is eleven days earlier each year.

Iran is a Muslim country which used to be called Persia. The people celebrate New Year on March 21, and a few weeks before this date, people put grains of wheat or barley in a little dish to grow. By the time of New Year, the grains have produced shoots, and this reminds the people of spring and a new year of life.



Hindu New Year





Most Hindus live in India, but they don't all celebrate New Year in the same way or at the same time.

The people of West Bengal, in northern India, like to wear flowers at New Year, and they use flowers in the colors of pink, red, purple, or white. Women like to wear yellow, which is the color of Spring.



In Kerala, in southern India, mothers put food, flowers, and little gifts on a special tray. On New Year's morning, the children have to keep their eyes closed until they have been led to the tray.



In central India, orange flags are flown from buildings on New Year's Day.



In Gujarat, in western India, New Year is celebrated at the end of October, and it is celebrated at the same time as the Indian festival of Diwali. At the time of Diwali, small oil lights are lit all along the roofs of buildings.



At New Year, Hindus think particularly of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.










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