New Year’s Day
Culture/religion: National observance
Date: January 1
The earliest celebrations of a new year go back 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. The Babylonians marked the new year with the first new moon following the vernal equinox, which would have been a day with equal sunlight and darkness in late March. As time went on, more sophisticated calendars were developed, and the first day of the new year was usually connected to an agricultural or astronomical event.
In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the Gregorian calendar, and declared January 1 as the first day of the new year.
In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on December 31 – New Year’s Eve – and often involve foods that are thought to bring good luck in the new year. For example, in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, people eat a dozen grapes just before midnight symbolizing their hope for the months ahead. Pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures; therefore, pork can usually be found on a celebration menu in Cuba, Austria, Hungary and Portugal. In some places, lentils are thought to bring financial success; for example, lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.
Fireworks, songs welcoming the new year, and resolutions are common traditions for the new year celebration.
New Year’s, History.com
Culture/religion: Japanese heritage
Date: January 1
Shogatsu is the Japanese New Year celebration and is celebrated annually on January 1. It is a time for spiritual communion and being with family. It is said to be the oldest annual event, dating back to at least the 6th century. Toshigami, a god of the new year, is believed to provide a huge harvest and perfect health to those who welcome him.
To prepare for the new year, Japanese people do housework – cleaning, replacing broken things – as well as a bit of mind work – paying all debts and concluding current affairs to best welcome the gods of the New Year.
December 31 is spent preparing the New Year’s dinner, Osechi ryori. All of the food eaten during the celebration has symbolic meaning: Soba noodles for longevity; red and white fish are traditional holiday colors; and fish eggs represent fertility. As to not offend the god of fire, no cooking is done the first three days of the holiday, so the prepared meals are heavily salted or pickled and stored in bento boxes for use on these days.
New Year’s Day is often spent having fun watching popular music contests on television, decorating the front of houses with bamboo and pine floral arrangement to symbolize health and longevity and receiving expensive gifts in a fukubukuro (“lucky bag” or grab bag).
Alternate spelling: Oshogatsu
- “Yoi otoshi o omukae kudasai” – Happy New Year (used until December 31)
- “Akemashite Omedetogozaimasu” – Happy New Year (used from January 1)
- Happy Shogatsu
New Year’s Day Shogatsu, Piece of Japan
Oshogatsu: The New Year, Japan Experience
Solemnity of Mary
Date: January 1
The Solemnity of Mary is a feast day honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary and celebrating Mary’s motherhood of Jesus. The honoring of Mary as the Mother of God can be traced back to the Council of Ephesus in 431.
The Solemnity of Mary is a Holy Day of Obligation (feasts that fall on days other than Sundays) on which Catholics are required to attend mass and avoid servile work.
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Wikipedia
The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Holy Family Church, South Pasadena, California
Date: January 6
Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, is a Christian observance that celebrates the revelation of God as Jesus Christ and is held annually on January 6, closing out the twelve days of Christmas.
In Western Christianity, the day commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation of the Gentiles. In Eastern Christianity, the day commemorates the baptism of Jesus.
What is Epiphany Day?, LearnReligions.com