Father Time and Baby New Year
New Year's Day has been celebrated throughout most of the western hemisphere for as long as we've had the modern (Gregorian c. 1582) calendar. Initially, it was a Roman holiday to celebrate Janus, the god of gates, doors, and of openings and gaps in walls. January is, of course, named after Janus, and traditionally marks the end of one period of time and the beginning of a new period. Janus, as you may know, had two faces, one looking forward, and one looking back.
Primarily a religious holiday in its early days, New Year's has evolved into a mostly secular holiday, but it still retains a bit of the melancholy hopefulness of Advent; many people see January 1, as the starting point for correcting errors such as overeating, smoking, and the "advent" of their thinner, healthier, and more successful selves. Bucket lists are drawn up, plans are made, and good intentions come to the front of the line.
Around 1752, when Great Britain and the American "colonies" adopted the Gregorian calendar, the birth of any child on New Year's Day was especially celebrated for its exceptionalism. Willard Stern Randall, in his excellent George Washington: A Life, describes Washington's happiness on hearing of the birth of a child on a New Year's Day while he sat otherwise disconsolately by a fire at Valley Forge in 1778. "May this New American live in Liberty!" he said.
Today we celebrate the New Year in the US with parades, the Rose Bowl, and the lowering of the 12,000 pound Time Square Ball at 11:59 PM on December 31st. Editorial pages will depict cartoons of Father Time passing the baton to Baby New Year and, in London, Big Ben will strike twelve, signaling the start of an hour long fireworks celebration.
However you decide to spend New Year's Eve, here at the Carroll County News, we hope that all your plans and good intentions bear fruit, and that 2014 finds and keeps you safe, happy, and optimistic. Happy New Year!