New Year’s Day History

    In most of the Western World, New Year’s Day is January first.  To me that seems like an odd choice.  That’s more than a week after the solstice and the start of winter and long before the start of spring.   It’s not the birthday of anyone of special merit.   So how did it become the start of the year?
    The answer lies in politics, of course.  Originally, the Romans started the new year on March 15.  I assume because it was the start of spring, not because it is the day on which Julius Caesar was assassinated.  In 153 BC, it was officially changed to January first because that was the day when the Roman consuls were selected.  In much of Europe, the people continued to consider the first day of spring, or some other day in March, as the start of the new year until well into the middle ages.  Gradually, however, Europe began to recognize January first as the start of the year.
    New Year’s was first celebrated by the Babylonians 4000 years ago.  The Babylonians celebrated for eleven days with different activities on each day.  Ancient pagans often exchanged gifts on New Year’s day rather than on Christmas.  The early Christian church condemned the practice as pagan, but later, turned it into a religious celebration as they did with other pagan holidays.  The ancient Greeks started the tradition of symbolizing the new year as a baby.
    Today, we generally celebrate with New Year’s Eve parties, resolutions (this tradition started with the Babylonians!)  and remembrance of the year gone by via various television and radio programs and newspaper articles such as “Top Hits of the Year”, “Best Movies of the Year”,  Worst blunders of the Year”, or simply “The Year in Review”.  The Tournament of Roses Parade is another well known New Year’s Day activity in this country.  Some young people think the parade is just the start of the Rose Bowl Game, but the parade began in 1886 while the game was added to the festivities in 1902.   Some also make predictions of what the new year will bring.  I like to read the ones in the tabloids just for a laugh.  Notice they never run a list of how many of last years predictions came true.

I’ll add some stories about tradition foods for New Year’s Day in my New Year’s Day post.

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2008 In Review

    This year has been a year of many changes, some rather drastic.  We have seen big changes in the economy, in politics, in weather and in society in general.  We saw gas jump to over $4.00 a gallon, then drop to $1.50 at the end of the year.  
    We saw the collapse of the big financial companies who had convinced millions to invest in the fantasy that stocks and real estate would continue to grow in value every year forever.  We saw bailouts of huge corporations that were failing because of their own mistakes, while many smaller businesses folded with no offers of help from the government.
    In weather, we saw the worse tornado season on record, we saw the arctic ice cap shrink to it’s smallest, we saw hurricanes form quickly and become very powerful in one day due to warmer waters.  We say the continues extremes of major floods in some areas and droughts in others.  
    In politics, we can only hope that the next eight years will give us government of the people and an end to government of the big corporations (and that’s all I’ll say on the subject since I want to avoid getting into politics on this blog).
    Of course, the area of most interest to me is religion and spirituality and those Year in Review TV shows and newspaper articles rarely mention the subject, so I will.  
    On the negative side, we have seen actions by some conservative churches that have had the effect of turning many against religion.  We heard the Pope express continued support of the ban against women in the priesthood.  This at a time when they are closing down churches due to a shortage of priests.  We saw many gays and friends of gays turn against religion because of the support by these conservative churches of proposition 8 in California that banned same-sex marriage several months after it had been legalized.  Now atheist organizations are trying to get the gay groups to join them in opposition to religion getting involved in politics, so not a smart move by those churches. 
    On the positive side, there has been significant growth in interfaith groups so people of all faiths can learn to understand one another and live together in harmony.  I’ve also read that interest and studies on spirituality is gaining popularity in colleges.  We even saw a book on spiritual development get on the Oprah Book Club!  I, of course, am particularly pleased that we are seeing growing interest in Mystic and Gnostic teachings since that is what the International Community of Christ is all about.

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Time Acceleration

    According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar, each new period of the current age is shorter than the previous one, but time moves twenty times faster in the new period.  This means that the current period that began in 1999 is moving twenty times faster than the previous one.  
    I think this interpretation is essentially correct.  I remember hearing on a History Channel special on 2012 that a scientist who noted the rapid increase in technological growth programmed a computer to figure out when this increasing rate of advancement would lead to the point where everything that can be developed, was , and any new ideas were coming so fast that they were obsolete before they could actually be built.  The date he came up with is the end of 2012.  
    This doesn’t mean that clocks are literally moving faster, but that things are happening faster.  Progress in various fields such as medicine and electronics is happening at an ever increasing rate.  This may cause many people, especially older ones, to feel overwhelmed by the pace of change.  We all need to be patient and helpful when that happens so our society as a whole is not overwhelmed and unable to adjust.

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Random Thoughts 12-28-2008

In some foreign counties, the CIA has to bribe people to provide information.  In rural areas where cash is often meaningless bits of paper, they may offer a goat, pig or horse for information.  In this weeks news there is a new one from Afghanistan.  They are now giving Viagra to some tribal leaders in exchange for information about the Taliban and other terrorists.

A big story in the news this past week was the water main break in Bethesda, MD that flooded a street during morning rush hour causing some to have to be rescued from their cars by helicopter.  Ironically, the street that was flooded is River Road.

While oil and gas prices have dropped quite a lot since the summer highs of four dollars a gallon, or more, it seems that people are not falling for the bait and rushing to start using a lot of gas again.  Some of that is undoubtedly due to many being unemployed and others fearing that they soon will be unemployed also, but I think (hope) that at least some of it is because people are finally waking up and are not going to fall into those traps again.

Dumb Crime:

Police these days are catching some car thieves by planting cars with cameras and tracking devices to temp the crooks.  Recently one guy stole one of those bait cars.  It wasn’t difficult for the police to find him and identify him.  The camera got a good picture of his neck where his name and phone number were tattooed.

In Religion:

The Guinness Book record for the longest continuous chanting by a religious group is unknown.  That is because monks at the Shri Bala Hanuman temple in India started chanting on August 1, 1964 and haven’t stopped yet!

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