Why is New Year’s Day January 1st? And What Do Black-Eyed Peas Have to Do With It?
You’ll probably say that over and over the past few days without even thinking much about it.
But did you ever wonder why we celebrate the start of the new year on January 1st?
After all, it’s not the start of the school year.
It’s not the first day of any season.
And besides, it’s cold outside!
(Unless you’re in Florida, California or some other place way down South.)
It turns out the tradition of starting the new year on January 1st dates back to the days of the Roman Empire.
According to historians, it was Julius Caesar himself who set January 1st as the first day of the new year, all the way back in 46 B.C.
Why January 1st?
Because it coincided with the festival honoring the Roman God Janus – the God of new beginnings.
(Historians say the month of January is named after Janus.)
But in the year 567 A.D., the Roman Catholic Church abolished the celebration of January 1st as New Year’s Day.
(“Abolish” means to outlaw or ban.)
Because of the celebration’s non-Christian roots.
It wasn’t until the year 1582 that Pope Gregory the 13th re-established January 1st as New Year’s Day.
Not every culture celebrates the start of the New Year on January 1st, though.
For example, the Jewish New Year usually begins around the start of autumn (although most Jewish people in the United States also celebrate January 1st as the start of the non-religious calendar).
And many Asian cultures (including the Chinese) celebrate the start of their new year in late January or February, to coincide with the approach of spring.
But in today’s modern world, January 1st is considered the start of the new year almost everywhere.
Lots of New Year’s celebrations include fireworks.
According to historians, celebrating with fire and fireworks dates back to ancient times.
Back then, people believed that all the fire and the noise would scare away evil spirits and bring good luck.
A lot of foods eaten on New Year’s are associated with good luck, too.
For example, the custom of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day goes back thousands of years, according to at least one historical account – way back to the days of the Egyptian pharaohs.
(The pharaohs were the Egyptian rulers.)
In Egypt, black-eyed peas symbolized luck and good fortune.
The African slaves are credited with bringing the custom of eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to America.
(After all, Egypt is a part of Africa.)
In Spain, it’s considered good luck to eat grapes on New Year’s Day.
In Italy, people eat lentils.
And in other parts of Europe, New Year’s feasts have to include cabbage.
The reason: cabbage symbolizes money.
Whatever you eat on New Year’s Day, here’s to good luck in the coming year.