Tomorrow, December 31st, might be New Year's Eve.
December 31st is certainly New Year's Eve here in England. Well, it is at the moment, anyway. Until the mid 1700s New Year's Day in Britain was March 25th, the day Mary became pregnant with Jesus. This is why in books written in the first half of the 1700s
dates between January 1st and March 25th tend to be written something like 21st February 1714/15, so you could tell what year you were talking about whichever system you were using.
The system was changed officially in 1750 to bring Britain into line with Europe. Mind you, Europe hadn't had a January 1st New Year for very long: there had recently been parts of Europe that had celebrated their New Year variously on March 1st, Easter Day, 1st September and Christmas Day.
So, the question is, what makes a year new?
Well, it's not the time of year, because New Year doesn't necessarily have to have a fixed date: Chinese New Year can come anywhere between 21st January and 21st February, and the Muslim New Year depends entirely upon the lunar calendar so it can fall at any time of year: in fact, 2008 was a bonus year, because it had two.
Just as charmingly, the Tibetan New Year can happen at any time in January, February or March, and some parts of India have a New Year Season running from March to April.
Iranians, Zoroastrians and the Baha'i all celebrate New Year around the Spring Equinox. They do in Bali, too, except that there the New Year is marked there by silence and reflection. Even the airport is closed.
Mind you, this is quite like Britain, where New Year's Day is traditionally a time for that quiet reflection that comes inevitably as a result of a truly colossal hangover.
In Kutch the New Year starts with the rains, which is in June.
Autumn New Years happen in Nepal, some parts of Pakistan and India, and formerly among the Murador Tribe of Australia and French Revolutionaries.
It seems that the world and its people are perpetually renewing themselves.
And if that isn't a reason to make us look forward with hope, then surely nothing is.
Word To Use Today: new. This word comes from the Latin novus.