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How 5 Most Ancient Civilizations Met the New Year: Little-Known Facts Revealed by Historians
How 5 Most Ancient Civilizations Met the New Year: Little-Known Facts Revealed by Historians

New Year is the main holiday of the year, the most beloved one for children and, to be honest, for most adults. He is so familiar to us, it seems that he has always been. But is it really so? In part, yes. The habit of celebrating the beginning of a new year is one of the most ancient customs. Almost five thousand years ago, this holiday was celebrated in ancient Mesopotamia. The origins of this wonderful tradition and colorful features are exemplified by the most advanced civilizations of the Ancient World, further in the review.

1. Akita in Babylon

Babylonian Akita

In March, during the vernal equinox, after the first new moon, the New Year was also celebrated in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon. It was a holiday that symbolized the rebirth of the natural world. The Babylonians celebrated it very splendidly. It was an almost two-week festival called Akitu. This holiday was very closely associated with the religion and mythology of ancient Mesopotamia. During the celebration, statues of the Babylonian pagan gods were traditionally carried through the streets of the city. The priests performed special rituals to symbolize their victory over the forces of chaos and darkness. The Babylonians sincerely believed that these rituals cleanse the world and that it is reborn by the gods. So the New Year came and spring returned.

Ishtar Gate in Babylon Ancient Babylon had a very interesting New Year tradition

One of the most exciting aspects of Akita is the kind of ritual humiliation that the Babylonian king was subjected to. According to this peculiar tradition, the monarch was brought to the statue of the god Marduk. There he was stripped of all royal regalia and made to swear that he would lead the city with honor. Then the high priest gave the king a slap in the face and tore him by the ears until the sovereign cried. If the high priest succeeded in making the king shed tears, this was considered a good sign. It was a symbol that Marduk was satisfied and extended the monarch's time on the throne. Some historians argue that these were purely political elements. Thus, the kings used the Akita as a tool to confirm the divinity of their power over the people.

2. Ancient Rome and Janus

Ancient Roman god Janus

The New Year in ancient Rome was also originally celebrated during the vernal equinox. This was the case until the era of the reign of Julius Caesar. This emperor gave us the "Julian" calendar and the New Year, which to this day the majority of the population of our planet celebrates on January 1. The name of this month comes from the name of the ancient Roman two-faced deity Janus, the god of change and beginnings. Janus looked back symbolically at the old and prepared for the new. This idea formed the basis of the celebration of the transition from one year to the next.

Celebrating the New Year in Ancient Rome

The Romans celebrated the holiday by making sacrifices to Janus in the hope of grabbing luck by the tail in the new year. This day was seen as the beginning of the next twelve months. On the holiday, all relatives, friends and neighbors wished each other well and prosperity and gave gifts. Traditionally, these were figs and honey. According to the poet Ovid, the Romans tried to work on this day by all means, if not the whole day, then at least part of it. Doing nothing was considered a very bad start to the year.

3. Vepet Renpet in Ancient Egypt

The culture of Ancient Egypt is closely related to their Nile River

The entire culture of Ancient Egypt has always been very closely associated with the Nile River. The Egyptians celebrated the New Year on the days of the annual spill. The Roman writer Censorinus claimed that the Egyptian New Year was predicted when Sirius first became visible after seventy days. It is the brightest star in the night sky. The phenomenon, more commonly known as heliacal sunrise, usually occurred in mid-July. This is just before the annual flood of the Nile River. The event promised fertility to the earth next year. The Egyptians celebrated the beginning of the new year on a grand scale. The holiday is known as Vepet Renpet, which means "the opening of the year." The New Year was considered a time of rebirth and was celebrated with lavish feasts and special religious rites.

Ancient Egyptian calendar

Experts believe that the Egyptians did not differ much from our contemporaries in celebrating this holiday. Often they saw in him only an excuse to get a good drink. Recent excavations at the Temple of Mut have shown that during the reign of Hatshepsut, in the first month of the year, a "Feast of Drunkenness" was held. This massive booze was associated with the myth of Sekhmet, the goddess of war. She planned to destroy all of humanity, but the sun god Ra tricked her into drinking until she felt insensible. In honor of the salvation of mankind from such a threat, the Egyptians celebrated magnificently with music, orgies, general fun and copious alcoholic libations.

4. New Year in China

The symbol of the Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is one of the oldest traditions that has survived to this day. This holiday originated more than three thousand years ago, during the reign of the Shang dynasty. It was celebrated at the start of the new spring sowing season. Later, the holiday was overgrown with myths and legends. One of the most popular of them says that there once lived a very bloodthirsty creature named Nian. Now this Chinese word means "year." Every New Year, Nian hunted the inhabitants of one of the Chinese villages. The villagers began to make bright red decorations and hang them on houses to scare away the hungry beast. They also burned bamboo and shouted very loudly. The trick worked. The monster was defeated. The vibrant colors and lights associated with repelling Nyan eventually became an integral part of the celebration.

Over time, the holiday was simply overgrown with various myths and legends

The celebration usually lasts two weeks. This is a family holiday. People traditionally clean their homes to save them from bad luck in the new year. Many are trying to pay off all old debts, to settle all matters. In order for the new year to be auspicious, the Chinese traditionally decorate the doors of their houses with paper scrolls. On these days, relatives with the whole family gather for a festive dinner. Gunpowder was invented in China in the 10th century. This made the New Year's celebration brighter and more magnificent - fireworks appeared. The Chinese New Year is still based on the lunar calendar, as it was thousands of years ago. It is mentioned in the second millennium BC. The holiday usually falls in late January or early February. This is the second new moon after the winter solstice. Each year is associated with one of the twelve signs of the zodiac. These are animals: a pig, a dog, a rooster, a monkey, a goat, a horse, a snake, a dragon, a rabbit, a tiger, a bull and a rat.

5. Navruz

Navruz is the ancient Persian New Year

Nowruz or "New Day" is still celebrated in many parts of Asia and the Middle East, in particular in Iran. The roots of this holiday go back centuries. The celebration traditionally lasts thirteen days. It falls on the period of the vernal equinox. This happens in March. The holiday is called the "Persian New Year" and is believed to have come from the Zoroastrian religion. Historical texts mention Navruz for the first time in the 2nd century. Most historians believe that its celebration dates back to at least the 6th century BC. This was the period of the rule of the Achaemenid Empire. Navruz retained all the power of its influence on the entire eastern culture and remained extremely important even after the conquest of Iran by Alexander the Great.It happened in 333 BC. The rise of Islamic rule did not follow until the 7th century AD.

The holiday is widely celebrated even now It symbolizes the arrival of the long-awaited spring

All rituals and ceremonies of Navruz were dedicated to the revival of all nature, which accompanied the long-awaited arrival of spring. The rulers used the holiday to hold lavish feasts, give out gifts, and hold audiences with their subjects. Other traditions included the exchange of gifts between family, friends, and neighbors. At this time, bonfires were lit, eggs were painted and sprinkled with water. In the ancient tradition of the holiday, this symbolized creation. One unique ritual was associated with the holiday. It arose around the 10th century and consisted in the election of the so-called "Navruzian ruler". For this, an ordinary commoner was chosen and he had to pretend to be a king. This lasted for several days. Then the "king" was overthrown. Here's a curious symbolism. Of course, Navruz has undergone significant changes over time. Nevertheless, many ancient traditions, especially bonfires and colored eggs, are still alive today. Almost three hundred million people around the world celebrate this holiday every year.

If you are interested in history, read our article on because of what collapsed 6 of the most highly developed ancient civilizations.

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