New Year’s Day – the First of Several
Most of us in the world today use, as our primary calendar, that known as the “Gregorian”. The Gregorian calendar came into popular usage between 1542, when it was decreed by Pope Gregory, and as late as 1926, by which time it was adopted by Russia and China. It’s amazing to think that there are people alive today who used other systems and calendars in their childhood.
In MY childhood, although the common calendar was always used, my multi-cultural extended family also celebrated two other New Year’s Days. These New Year celebrations have long traditions, going back thousands of years.
Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days, beginning on the 1st of the 4076th year (in 2008). It comes fairly soon in the Gregorian year, and will be celebrated next on February 8. This date will begin the Year of the Rat. Chinese years are named for one of 12 animals, and are thought to embody certain qualities these animals posses. This was an important holiday in San Francisco where I grew up. I remember well the huge parade, headed by a Dragon, and the red Lai-see envelopes with money inside given to children. If you’d like to know the animal qualities for the year you were born, go here. I’ll be back in February to wish you “Gung Hay Fat Choy“.
The first month of the Hebrew calendar is actually Nissan (starts April 6, 2008), however, the celebration known as Jewish New Year comes in the autumn. In 2008 it begins with Rosh Hashanah, on September 30 & October 1, and is followed ten days later with Yom Kippur on October 9, both in the Hebrew month of Tishrei. These holidays are among the most important and sacred of the Jewish year. (The #1 most important remains the Sabbath, celebrated every Saturday), and are times of reflection and atonement.
Other New Year dates I acknowledge, but did not observe in my youth are Islamic New Year (the next, for year 1429, is approx. January 10, 2008, depending upon the full moon sighting), and Japanese New Year, which begins on January 1st, as does the Gregorian, but lasts for three days. This time is seen as a “fresh start” for commerce and activities.
So, I’ll wish you a very good New Year–several times!