New Years Day

It is interesting to note how those in the Western world are so presumptuous as to think “the world” means only them. Like when the West says “the world” celebrates new years day when more than half the population doesn’t even recognize it as a significant date or event on their calendar. That is, when over at least 3 billion people (across India, China, South-East Asia, Africa, South America) are cozily sleeping in their beds on New Years Eve. It bearing no significance to the non-Western world that the Gregorian calendar rolled over to 2007: no new years resolutions, no celebration, just another day. That is how I felt when I was in my home town in India this New Year, where people still follow the Tamil calendar which predates the Gregorian by thousands of years.

Most indigenous cultures around the world have observed for thousands of years, their new years day at the start of the vernal equinox. Even the early Roman Calendar prior to Christianity had their new years day in mid-March.

Note that the date of January 1 is not based on any astronomical significance, but religious. January 1 (the eighth day counting from December 25th) is the “Feast of the Circumcision [of Christ]”. So the next time someone celebrates New Years Eve, might just want to ask, did you celebrate the holy circumcision? Not to mention even putting the date of circumcision of Christ on the date is arbitrary, after ousting what it originally stood for (the celebration of Janus, the Roman god “of beginnings, gateways, and transitions”, after which January is named).

For example, for Hindus (a little over 1 billion people) the new years day is computed from the sidereal vernal equinox, at the point when the Sun enters the Aries zodiac. This date is the first day of the month of Chithirai (சித்திரை). This corresponds to mid-April of the Gregorian Calendar. So, the 1st day of January, by Gregorian Calendar is the 17th day of the month of Margazhi (மார்கழி) in the Hindu calendar this year.

Since the Hindu calendar is based on astronomical observation, there is a variation of +/- a few days when translating to the corresponding Gregorian Calendar date. For example, the Hindu new year which starts on the first of Chithirai, this year translates to April 15; the next year it may translate to April 14. See Hindu calendar. The Hindu new year has been observed for more than 5100 years.

Note: I’m not saying we shouldn’t have an internationally agreed upon standard date for resetting the year, which for historical and financial reasons came to be fixed on January 1. I’m fine with that, just as we have adopted English as the common currency language even though there are a number of far more refined and elegant languages. What I’m pointing out is how the West superimposes its culture on the result of the world, by saying “the world…” when the only people observing it is them. How would Americans (and even more so Christians) take it if 1 billion Hindus (if they were to own most of the global media) said, “the world celebrates News Years Day”, where they mean Hindu New Years Day, in April.

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