Why Does January 1st Mark the New Year?: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Dec 30, 2019

For the Iroquois nation, the ceremony of the New Year is only rightly observed five sleeps after New Moon when the star cluster of the Pleiades is highest. Pleiades is always highest at this time of year, and the Moon was New on December 26th, making December 31st the right time for ceremonies of the new.

Just as all our days gather into one final celebration here at the end of the year, so have all the major planets gathered up into one place with the Sun ~ well, nearly all of them.

Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury are all so close to the Sun right now that they won’t be visible as we make our turn into the New Year, but in a perfectly poetic gesture, Venus  and Mars are hugging either end of the day, visible on opposite horizons all week long, one before and one after Helios makes his bold sweep across the sky and on into the new year. Venus adorns the evening sky with love and beauty, while Mars marches through the morning sky, inspiring us all toward the hearty action that is characteristic of all the best beginnings.

But did you know that New Year’s Day wasn’t celebrated on January 1st until the Gregorian calendar reform of the 16th century? Prior to that time, Spring Equinox marked the beginning of the New Year, and was celebrated with festivals of renewal in  most cultures. But as for January as the time for marking the beginning, it’s evident that in Ancient Egyptian culture, the traditional observance of the birth of Osiris was held around the 6th of January, a date many centuries later that the Christians observed as the Baptism of the Christ. The festival of Christmas didn’t really begin until the fourth century, and was then followed 12 centuries later by the this season between Winter Solstice and January 6th as the one that marks the beginning of the year. A tale from the Iroquois nation explains that New Year is to be celebrated five sleeps after the New Moon when the star cluster of the Pleiades is highest, which this year means the ceremony of observance falls on December 31st