Here are a podcast plus notes on New Year's Day (10 minutes).

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Differing dates observed for new year's celebration

  • Asian cultures
    • Chinese New Year: Usually 20 Jan to 20 Feb. This means those born in the very beginning of our calendar year belong to the previous Chinese year.
    • Hindu - 13 or 14 April.
    • Islamic - rotates because Muslims follow a lunar calendar (~354 days).
    • Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan (although all are Muslim-majority nations) - 21/22 March.
  • Ancient world
    • Babylon: Lunar calendar - first new moon after vernal equinox.
    • Egyptians: Changed to a solar calendar before 4000 BC! Calendars are most useful when they can be used to make accurate predictions (e.g. flooding of Nile).
    • Ancient Rome: Julian calendar, 15 March until 153 BC, then 1 January. January: Janus - 2 faces.
    • Mayan world: 16 July.
  • Christian world
    • England: 25 March in England until 1752.
      • Feast of Annunciation, date obtained by working backwards 9 months from 25 December.
      • Changed by act of Parliament (1750). 11 days were cut out of September 1752.
    • Orthodox world:
      • Some Eastern Orthodox (e.g. the nation of Greece) celebrate 14 January as start of New Year.
      • Other Greek Orthodox have the start of the religious year in autumn (September).

New Year's Day in the Bible

  • Celebrations: nothing like modern (worldly) partying at the new year.
  • Two days:
    • Religious calendar: Spring celebration (Exodus 12:2).
    • Civil calendar: Autumn celebration (September) - Rosh Hashanah (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:24-25).
    • One more factor making chronology problematic is that regnal years were observed.
  • Even better: the new Sabbath and Jubilee years! These new year days inaugurated days of release of servants, cancellation of debts, etc (Leviticus 25).

Biblical reflections on New Year's Resolutions

  • The world really misses the mark when it comes to New Year's Day. A time for introspection: "Days of Awe" between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This should be a holy time, not a wild bash of pagan revelry.
  • Resolutions are fine, but we need to make sure our yes is yes! (Psalm 15; Matthew 5; James 5)
    • Fewer is better than more.
    • Follow-up or accountability is essential.
  • Resolutions should be God-focused, not self-focused.
    • Losing weight, saving money, becoming happy -- these are examples of self-directed goals. They may glorify god, but identical aims are pursued by non-believers every new year. We can do better.
    • Seeking God's face, reading through the whole Bible, fasting, taking a week or two to preach overseas or serve the poor -- why not make these sorts of resolutions?
  • We're called to be faithful stewards of what the Lord has given us, including our time. Every day counts, every week, every year (Ephesians 5:16)!