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New Year’s traditions hail from antiquity

by Randy Shore

If your head really hurts on New Year’s Day, you could point your finger at the Babylonians who started this new year revelry nonsense. Though the ancient Romans added the idea of alcoholic excess, or at least perfected it. Julius Caesar fixed the start of the year on Jan. 1 by letting the previous year run to 445 days rather than the traditional 365. The Roman citizenry made their winter festival Saturnalia a celebration without rules. So, let’s blame the Romans. Any way you slice it, New Year’s is among the very oldest and most persistent of human celebrations.

In fact, feasting on lucky foods is the most ancient new year tradition and one that is mostly lost on young Canadians who often opt for the boozing and vomiting option. (How many tuxedos and sequined party dresses have to die before we learn our lesson?) The new year celebration is an observance of the earth’s ability to renew itself and sustain us for another year. In agrarian societies – that used to be all societies – foods were the most potent of all new year’s symbols. “It’s as simple as new year equals more food equals party,” said Toronto literary researcher Gordon Timmis. “And that basic equation persisted from the most ancient times right through the Middle Ages to modern times, despite the best efforts of the Christian churches to snuff it out.”

Read the original article at: Canwest News

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