Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

New Year’s Day Celebration Is Rooted On Survival

Dec 29, 2021, 12:35 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo


THE age-old practice of celebrating New Year’s Day could be traced back some 4,000 years ago to ancient Babylon.

For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox – the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness – marked the start of a new year.

It is during this time that a new king is crowned or that the incumbent ruler’s divine mandate is symbolically renewed.

The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months in a year of 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox. Numa Pomphilius, the second king of Rome who succeeded Romulus, added the months of Januarius and Februarius.

Then in 40 B.C., Emperor Julius Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year to honor the month’s namesake, Janus, the Roman god of beginnings whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward intothe future.

The Romans celebrated New Year’s Day by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches, and making resolutions.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII, who issued the papal bull “Inter Gravissimus”, introduced the Gregorian calendar (also called the New Style Calendar) reforming the Julian calendar, and finally re-established January 1 as New Year’s Day.

But, curiously so, according to Harvard instructor David Ropeik, in his article on, and after researching on the various New Year’s Day common practices and rituals or “shared behaviors” observed worldwide, the symbolism we attach to New Year’s Day is rooted in our most ancient human instinct, which is to survive.

“Everywhere, New Year’s Day is a moment to consider our weaknesses and how we might reduce the vulnerabilities they pose – and to do something about the scary powerlessness that comes from thinking about the unsettling unknown of what lies ahead. As common as those shared behaviors are across both history and culture, it’s fascinating to realize that the special ways that people note this unique passage of one day into the next are probably all manifestations of the human animal’s fundamental imperative for survival,” Ropeik wrote.

Like birthdays, according to Ropeik, New Year’s Day provides us the chance to celebrate having made it through 365 days, the unit of time by which we keep chronological score of our lives.

New Year’s resolutions are all about survival too, Ropeik further points out.

“New Year’s resolutions are examples of the universal human desire to have some control over what lies ahead, because the future is unsettlingly unknowable. We resolve to diet and exercise, to quit smoking, and to start saving, etc. Committing to them, at least for a moment, gives us a feeling of more control over the uncertain days to come,” Ropeik said.

Even the resolution of treating people better can also be a manifest example of survival mode.

“New Year’s resolutions commonly include things like treating people better, making new friends, and paying off debts. It’s been so throughout history. The Babylonians would return borrowed objects. Jews seek and offer forgiveness. The Scots go ‘first footing’ visiting neighbors to wish them well. How does this social resolving connect to survival? Simple: we are social animals. We have evolved to depend on others. Treating people well is a good way to be treated well. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is a great survival strategy,” said Ropeik.

Finally, Ropeik adds, resolving to “pray more” is also a kind of survival mechanism.

“Pray more and an omnipotent force is more likely to keep you safe. Jews pray at the start of their new year to be inscribed in the4 ‘Book of Life’ for one more year,” Ropeik wrote.

Hark ye, if indeed human survival instinct is the primordial reason for celebrating the New Year’s Day, it behooves pondering thus that come January 1, the first day of 2022, is the most important day to reflect, look back, take stock, and plan or resolve for a better future for each of us – regardless whether the pandemic comes to an end or not.

I wish to add, however, that while indeed we cannot determinately take control of what lies ahead of us because of our human imperfection, we cannot underestimate nonetheless the power of prayer or of the transcendence of faith over reason.

“Credo ut intelligam (I believe in order that I may understand),” St. Augustine rightly said.

For, truly, more than our fear or anxiety of what lies ahead, God is. A bright and hope-filled New Year to everyone!

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