Reading, Writing & Other Addictions

Facing Reality Through Fiction

Happy New Year!

on 01/01/2015
These are not the black eyed peas I made. These look a lot prettier.

These are not the black eyed peas I made. These look a lot prettier.

Since I was a child black eyed peas have always been part of our New Year’s tradition.  I was told that eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day would bring me luck in the new year.  I was also told that if you could eat 365 black eyed peas on New Year’s Day, you wouldn’t have to eat black eyed peas any other time during the year.  After doing a little digging, I have discovered that the good luck story was true, but the story about eating 365 peas so that we wouldn’t have to eat them for the rest of the year, seems to be something my family made up to get us to eat their vegetables.

Black eyed peas being good luck is a Southern tradition that dates back to the Civil War, when Union soldiers would either eat or destroy the crops of Southern farmers and plantation owners as they marched through.  However, they never ate or destroyed the crops of black eyed peas because they thought black eyed peas where feed for cows and not fit for human consumption.  So the Southerners would eat them and think they were lucky to have them. Black eyed peas are usually cooked with either pork or bacon (I cooked mine with bacon), because  hogs root, which represents pushing forward.

Since I was looking into New Year’s traditions, I also decided to look into why New Year’s is celebrated on January 1st, as it never made since to me to begin the year in the middle of winter.  However, after doing a little research it starts to make a little more sense.  Did you know that the earliest record of a New Year’s celebration is in 2,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, but it was celebrated at the vernal equinox (mid-March), which of course made more sense to me, as Spring is the time when everything becomes new again.  Actually, many different places celebrated the new year at different times.  The Egyptians and Persians started the new year on the Fall equinox (September) and the Greeks at the Winter solstice (December).

So, why do we celebrate in January? Well, the month of January had to be created before we could start to celebrate during it.  The calendar used to only have 10 months, which is reflected in the names for the months (septem=7, octo=8, novern=9, decem=10 in latin).  So the early Roman calendar had the new year starting in March, until 700 B.C. when Numa Pontilius, the second king of Rome added January and February to the calendar.  January comes from the Roman God Janus, the two-faced god, who was the god of doorways and beginnings.  Janus had one face that looked back into the past and one face that peered into the future.

Another reason I found for the timing of the new year was that January is after the Winter solstice and therefore the days begin to get longer again.  The longer hours of daylight effect the cycles of crops and even the emotional state of people.  Therefore, the Romans began celebrating in January.  Not that the Romans celebration had any effect on when the Greeks or Egyptians celebrated. Until the Julian calendar came into effect.  This calendar was a solar based calendar and decreed that the new year began on January 1.  Unfortunately, the Julian calendar suffered from a math problem and so days kept getting added to the calendar.

Then, during the Middle Ages, celebrating the new year on January 1st was actually abolished for having it’s origins in a pagan ritual, so people started celebrating New Year’s on December 25 (because of the celebration of Christ’s birth) or March 1 or March 25 or Easter (I guess we shouldn’t mention Christmas and Easter are also based on pagan rituals that Christians adopted as their own).

Fortunately, in 1582, during the time of Pope Gregory XIII, the Jesuit astronomer Christopher Calvius worked out the math and gave us leap year day.  Thus, the Gregorian calendar was born and most of the world reverted to celebrating New Year’s on January 1,  There were still the hold outs, mostly Protestants in England and the American colonies, who didn’t fall in line until 1752.

So question answered. Now we know why we celebrate New Year’s on January 1.  We can blame it on the Romans.

Happy New Year!


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