Happy New Year!
Und einen guten Rutsch!

Each year, Sydney, Australia leads the world in New Year's celebrations since it is one of the first major cities to ring in the New Year. Their massive fireworks display over Sydney Harbour attracts over one million visitors, not to mention the television viewers watching the fireworks hours before their own celebrations begin. If you want to know when everyone else is celebrating New Year's compared to your own time zone, try this handy time zone converter.

One of the earliest New Year's celebrations is believed to have occurred in Mesopatamia around 2000 B.C, around the vernal equinox in mid-March. Other cultures celebrated their New Year at different times, including during the fall equinox and the winter solstice. March 1 was the New Year in the early Roman calendar, back when it only had ten months. January did not become a month until 700 B.C. when Numa Pontilius, the second king of Rome, added January and February.

In 153 B.C., Rome moved the New Year to January 1 in recognition of their civil New Year. This was the day that the two newly elected Roman consuls, the highest officials in the Roman republic, took office for their one year tenure. Many continued to celebrate according to their custom on March 1, however. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the new, solar calendar that was a vast improvement on Rome's old lunar calendar, and included on it January 1 as the start of the New Year. At least within the Roman world, the day began to be observed widely as the official New Year.

But the celebrations which accompanied the New Year were widely considered pagan. Medieval Europe, therefore, resisted the change. The Council of Tours actually abolished January 1 as the beginning of the New Year in 567. Instead, it was marked at various times in various places, including December 25, March 1, March 25 and Easter. Interestingly (at least to me) one date that really doesn't have any pagan attachment to it appears to be January 1, as it was a civil holiday rather than a religious one.

The Gregorian calendar reform of 1582 restored January 1 as the official New Year, and this was adopted almost immediately by the Catholic Church. Protestant Europe was a little slower, so most of the British Empire (including the American Colonies) continued to celebrate the New Year on March 1 until the reformed calendar was adopted in 1752.

Interestingly, one explanation for the origins of April Fool's Day is based on this discrepancy. Many cultures celebrated the New Year around the vernal equinox (March 20th or 21st), and much of Europe recognized the Feast of Annunciation (March 25th) as the New Year. When the Gregorian calendar was officially recognized by the pope, the Catholic world left this celebration, but the Protestants did not. Supposedly, there was a little chastisement...and anyone who hadn't gotten the New Year underway by April was surely a fool.

Some New Year's greetings from the countries I have visited:

en froh nee Johr--Low German (spoken in Northern Germany and more closely related to English)
Gott Nytt År--Swedish (the Å is pronounced like a long "o" in English)
Bonne année--French
Gelukkig niewjaar--Dutch
Godt Nyt År--Danish
Szczesliwego Nowego Roku--Polish
Feliz año nuevo--Spanish
Felice Anno Nuovo (or Buon anno)--Italian
and of course, ein gutes neues Jahr--German, or "einen guten Rutsch," which technically means, "a good slide." Don't ask. I don't know. The origins of the phrase are debated. Some see it related to Hebrew/yiddish (Rosh Hashana), but there is no yiddish or Hebrew formulation which wishes anyone anything in that manner. That doesn't necessarily mean that German couldn't have mutated it. Another explanation is that "Rutsch" is related to "Reise" which means "trip."
More New Year's greetings.

The information comes from infoplease.
The photo is from Wikipedia.

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