So when does a new year begin? Come on now. We all know that. Each and every one of us living in the Western Hemisphere are quite clear when the by-God new year begins.
It’s January 1st, for Pete’s sake. It begins at midnight on December 31st, right after the big ball drops in Times Square and Dick Clark used to tell us all about it. It’s when we shoot up fireworks, send up prayers, pump up hopes and crank up resolutions. Some of us play a little smacky-mouth as a way of either ending the old year or beginning the new. Not sure which. Maybe both. In any event, it’s obvious that January 1st is when we kick out of the starting blocks into another 525,600 minute marathon.
Or is it?
According to Jewish tradition, new year’s day begins on the first day of Tishrei, which is the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. This year, it’s October 2- 4. They call it “Rosh Hashanah,” and they celebrate it with the blowing of a horn called a “shofar.” And, according to Hebrew custom, this current year is not 2016, but 5777. For these yarmulke fashionistas, the year 2016 happened way back before Moses ever floated down the Nile or wandered in the wilderness. In Jewish 2016, the 10 commandments weren’t even a twinkle in God’s eye.
Then, there’s Diwali – Hindu New Year. Diwali is often celebrated in the months of October or November. It’s based on the lunar calendar; but the time of celebration is different, depending on where you live. This year, it’s October 30. Duwali is a very important holiday no matter when it happens. Lakshmi,
goddess of fortune, is the featured deity, and since Lakshmi loves flowers, everyone decorates their homes
with lots and lots of blossoms. You take a ceremonial bath to cleanse yourself for the new year. You light a row of candles to symbolize good over evil within you.
The ancient Babylonian New Year began after the first new moon after the vernal equinox. The early Christian church organizers must have thought that was a pretty good idea, so they assigned the dates of Easter to be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
The Iranian New Year, “Nowruz,” is the day of the vernal equinox and is celebrated as the beginning of spring.
Then, there’s Chinese New Year, which began on February 8, 2016, this year. Close to Valentine’s Day! Instead of simply kissing to start the new year, Valentine’s Day could encourage you to take it to whole new level. So what year is it in the Chinese calendar? Most really don’t care. It’s simply regarded as a cyclical celebration.
These few new-year traditions are, of course, just the beginning.
When Rumi wrote, “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” maybe he was suggesting that how or when you do it is not so important as simply doing it. Whether you celebrate the inconceivable wonder and infinite possibility of being alive for another year with fireworks or flowers or fasting or fondling doesn’t really matter. What finally matters is that we – in some way – kneel and kiss the ground. The ground of this miraculous life. Of this irreplaceable moment. Of this profound potential. Of this wide-open opportunity to love, to forgive, to show compassion and be implausibly goofy and joyful for another year.
Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner. Others are on their way. So, light a candle, kiss a sweetie, take a bath, blow a shofar, or run naked through your backyard at dawn in honor of Dick Clark. However you do it, just do it. Find a way to celebrate a new year of being your own irrationally remarkable self.