Sunday, January 12, 2014
Russians' pagan ancestors celebrated Kolyada, a winter solstice holiday. Early Slavs celebrated it from December 25 to January 6, as if they knew already back then that centuries later these will become almost the exact dates marking the New Year festive season in modern Russia.
Kolyada lasted 12 days, the ritual was presided over by 12 priests, and they predicted the future harvest using 12 sheaves of wheat and water from 12 wells. As you have probably guessed, the figure 12 had a special role to play in that holiday.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
New Year's HistoryThe 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, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible cresent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.)
The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.
Chinese calendarThe Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao, is based on a twelve year cycle, each year in that cycle related to an animal sign. These animal signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. It is calculated according to Chinese lunar calendar.
For a long time there has been a special relationship between humans and the 12 zodiacal animals. It is believed that the years represented by the animals affect the characters of people in the same manner as the sign of zodiac adopted by western civilizations.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Part of the magic of Christmas is the melding of a multitude of traditions, ancient to modern, to honor the birth of Christ on December 25th.
In the U.S., modern Christmas is a season for giving, sharing, and caring. Many traditions, like Christmas trees and candy canes, are of European origin, but an American imagination brought forth our Santa Claus in all his plump, red-suited glory.