30 December 2007

It's Another New Year (Replay of Previous Column)

The Tournament of Roses Parade dates back to 1886. In that year, members of the Valley Hunt Club decorated their carriages with flowers. It celebrated the ripening of the orange crop in California. The Rose Bowl football game was first played as a part of the Tournament of Roses in 1902, but was replaced by Roman chariot races the following year. In 1916, the football game returned as the sports centerpiece of the festival.

As a California native, my personal celebration of the New Year has always included the Rose Parade. Rain is forbidden by law in California on January 1 unless that is a Sunday in which case there will be no precipitation on January 2. Since the advent of television this has caused a problem, as everyone with three feet or more of snow outside their door then move to California on January 3.
Sad to say, I've become somewhat jaded in the past ten years. Just as with the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, it is the fault of television. What used to be a celebration of floral beauty combined with the innocence of young people, the warmth of the horses, and the patriotism/loyalty of the schools and military, is now just one more excuse for has-beens and wanna-bes to yak between commercials. So I plan to put the TV on mute, watch the pretty pictures, and wonder when the TV executives will discover that no one is listening to the spiel anymore. This year, I hope they will have the grace at least to leave the Cialis and Viagra away from the Sunday morning broadcast.

So how did this beginning of the year blowout get started?

The celebration of the New Year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23, although they themselves had no written calendar.

The Babylonian New Year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the New Year on March 25, but tampering by various emperors soon made the calendar out of synchronization with the sun.
In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established the Julian calendar. It again made January 1 as the New Year.

The early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations, and New Year's Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ's Circumcision by some denominations. January 1 has been celebrated as a holiday by Western nations for only about the past 400 years.

Other traditions of the season include the making of New Year's resolutions. That tradition also dates back to the early Babylonians. Popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking. The early Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

Whatever your customs for the day, may it be the beginning of a wonderful new year.

Happy New Year


Travis said...

Given enough time, anything that captures the attention of the masses will ultimately be commercialized. I watch most sporting events without sound for the majority of the game.

I guess the tough part of watching the parade without sound is missing the music. But a savvy remote operator can thumb the button pretty quickly between mute and un-mute when they see the marching bands.

Happy 2008!

Jamie said...

This year's parade really bothered me. It seems to have lost its joyful innocense. Too many production numbers ... it just felt phony.... Made me a little sad.

Linda said...

So many things that used to be traditional and simple seem to have become commercialized and for me, that makes it lose its appeal. The Macy's Day parade is an even better example of how things have changed.

Now, if you'll excuse me I need to go see if I have any farm equipment that I borrowed and neglected to return!