The month of January is named such due to ancient Rome who dedicated this month to Janus, the Roman god of doors, gates, and new beginnings. Janus is also known as “the two-faced god” – not as in a liar, but as in literally having two faces. Janus’ faces each look in an opposite direction: one looks forward and the other looks backward. So, New Year‘s celebrations are founded on pagan traditions – as are many other holidays. But did you know that some theories suggest this occurred as early as 153 BC?
January 1st specifically though is known for another Roman celebration. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar revised the calendar of Rome. Four years later – after the Roman Senate murdered him – the Roman Senate decided to deify Julius Caesar for his life and his rationalized new calendar. They would call this the Julian calendar. Both the Julian and the later-invented Gregorian calendars celebrate New Year’s Day – making it perhaps the only globally-celebrated holiday. That’s pretty cool, right?
Here’s a catchy bit of information that I did not know though. Scotland celebrates New Year’s Eve, but they call it Hogmanay. There is a famous street party in Princes Street in Edinburgh as one example of their celebration. But GET THIS: that song “Auld Lang Syne” is actually a Scottish poem that dates back to 1788! Did you ever wonder what exactly it means? “Auld Lang Syne” is literally translated in Scottish to “Old long since”, or roughly translated as “long long ago” or “days gone by”. It is used as a “closing” for the old year and so it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The international Boy Scout youth movement also uses it as a close to jamborees and other functions.
So when you hear that line of the song “For auld lang syne”, it means “for the sake of old times”. And you can thank the Scots (and the Irish and the Welsh) for spreading it around the globe, wherever the Celts emigrated to. And Thanks to “When Harry Met Sally” for asking the question that plagues us all: “what does that mean anyway?”
Happy New Years everyone! ….THE REEL VOICE
- Do you know the words to “Auld Lang Syne”? (fox2now.com)
- for Auld Lang Syne (heatherfromthegrove.wordpress.com)
- Auld Lang Syne lyrics: Ring in 2014 with the traditional song (wjla.com)
- How Does That New Year’s Eve Song Go Again? (kymx.cbslocal.com)