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The history of New Year's Day

Published:Friday | January 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM

TODAY MUCH of the world is celebrating the day that seems to be filled with endless possibilities, myths and new beginnings.

Late yesterday afternoon, many Jamaicans began preparations to greet the New Year in a positive frame of mind and with much heartiness.

There have been celebrations in the form of parties, fireworks, church services among other activities which have formed part of the New Year festivities and these, especially parties/street dances, may continue into the next few days.

As the story goes, however, though January 1 has been recognised as the start of each new year since 153 BC, it is widely believed that March 25, on the old Roman calendar, was once observed as the beginning of the year.

It was, therefore, common practice in the Middle East to see dates in March used to commemorate the annunciation of Jesus or used to celebrate/recognise Christian feasts.

Annunciation feast

March 25 was once celebrated as the feast of the annunciation and the first day of the New Year in England until the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752.

With many countries adopting the Gregorian or Julian calendars to mark January 1 as the beginning of a new year, the celebrations leading into the New Year have been both secular and religious in nature and crowded with a large number of myths.

To some persons, the New Year signifies new beginnings or a sign of change. Individuals, therefore, made resolutions before the clock struck 12:01 a.m today.

These resolutions tend to include, but are not limited to quitting smoking, consuming less alcohol, becoming financially thrifty and even to being more spiritual.

It can be estimated that more than a billion people worldwide made these resolutions and will try to live their lives in accordance for at least the first quarter of the year.

Roman Catholics are celebrating the Solemnity of Mary, a Mass where they give thanks for the life of the mother of Jesus.

Meanwhile, other segments of society such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Chinese have not yet started their new year.

How some countries celebrate the New Year

Last night, citizens of countries across the world rang in the New Year in their own unique styles. Here is how some countries would have celebrated the start of 2010.

FRANCE: The people of France usually make a lot of noise on New Year's Eve night, as a way of chasing evil spirits away. The first person to enter the house on New Year's Day represents what the year will be like for the occupiers of the house.

PUERTO RICO: Puerto Ricans 'ring in' the New Year by throwing a bucket of water into the street as a means of chasing away negative things and welcoming success and prosperity in the New Year. They also scatter sugar in the house and yard for good luck.

POLAND: There would have been baking of bread and doughnuts in Poland with the hope that the New Year will bring prosperity.

PHILIPPINES: Filipinos believe that if a table is filled with fruits of varying colours, round ornaments or you wear clothes with polka dots, the year will be prosperous. If children desire to grow tall, they should jump 10 times at midnight just before the new year begins.

JAPAN: The Japanese decorate houses with garlands to chase away evil spirits. This is a symbol of luck and happiness. Loud laughter is also believed to bring good luck and many Japanese would have done so today.