|Saturday, January 11, 2003||
THE New Year parties are over and everyone is busy with their resolutions. The New Year is celebrated all over the world in different ways and on different dates. A peep into the way it is celebrated in different cultures is an interesting exercise. It may seem that such a survey may not be of much use for a study of words but then appearances are often deceptive! Just read on.
The New Year was not
celebrated on January 1 always, and it doesn’t begin on that date
everywhere in the world even today. It begins on that date only in
those places where a 365-day solar calendar is used. January 1 marked
the beginning of the New Year in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar developed
a calendar that would reflect the seasons more accurately than the
previous calendars had. The Romans named the first month of the year
after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and
entrances. He is always shown as having two faces, one at the front of
his head and one at the back. Thus, he could look backward and forward
simultaneously. At midnight on December 31, the Romans imagined Janus
looking back at the old year and forward to the new one. The Romans
began a tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Eve by giving
one another branches from sacred trees for good luck. Later, nuts and
coins embossed with the profile of Janus became more common New Year’s
The Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar calendars. However, some cultures follow lunar calendars. A year in a lunar calendar is less than 365 days because the months are based on the phases of the moon. The Chinese use a lunar calendar. Their New Year begins at the time of the first full moon, sometime between January 19 and February 21. At midnight, drums, firecrackers, paper dragons, red ribbons and banners are used to drive away evil spirits.
The Islamic year starts anew every 354 days. Because there are no adjustments like the leap year to make, each calendar year corresponds to the time taken by the earth to revolve around the sun. The first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, does not fall in the same season every year.
There are two main theories governing the Hindu system that has come up with two entirely different calendars. According to the Hindu Saka Calendar, the year 2002 was actually 1922. This calendar was developed during the Saka Era in 78 AD. The Saka calendar, based on the astronomical theories given in the Vedas, is a lunar calendar unlike the Gregorian Solar Calendar. A section of the Hindus in India and Indonesia follow it even today. The Indian National Calendar follows the Saka system.
The second calendar is the
Vikram Samvat Calendar that marks the Gregorian year 2001 as B.S
2057. Vikram Samvat has 57 years more than the A. D. year. The
new Vikram Samvat starts from the Chaitra Purnima i.e.
April 13 in the Roman calendar. In North India this calendar is followed