Civilizations’ 3 Primary “New Years”: Winter, Spring Or Autumn?
Winter – Most Recent
“The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox.” In B.C.E. 46 Julius Caesar introduced first solar-based calendar. “As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake:
Janus, the Roman god of change and beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. This idea became tied to the concept of transition from one year to the next.”
Autumn New Year?
The obstinacy of the question of an autumnal New Year continues to roil, and refine, the ongoing debate that attempts to explain how the spring New Year of Torah, given at Har Sinai, came to evolve to today’s autumnal New Year (Hebrew: Rosh ha-Shanah), displacing the Y ōm Tᵊrū•âhꞋ of Torah.
Earliest Known Fixing Of The New Year
To date, the earliest historical documentation of the New Year was fixed in Iraq, c B.C.E. 2000, to the vernal (i.e. spring) equinox – when days stop getting shorter, darkness loses its grip over daylight, and days begin getting longer. Simultaneously, this was the time of the first – new – harvest, new food crop, after the cold and dark winter months: barley.
Back then, people used the lunar calendar. Thus, the New Year was fixed to the first New Moon after the vernal equinox, the barley harvest.
The spring celebration of the barley harvest was associated with the mythical victory of the ancient Iraqi sky god of the 4 winds and patron deity of ancient Iraq, Marduk, over the mythical evil sea goddess Tiamat, from which, the myth goes, Marduk then created the world. The celebration, marked by decorated trees, also fixed time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed.
Contrary to conventional arguments, it turns out that the chronological development of a civilizational “New Year”, e.g. from Mesopotamia, has no bearing whatsoever on Israel’s embrace of an autumnal “New Year”! The Mesopotamian and Babylonian experience offers no helpful information regarding an autumnal New Year.
Seeming instantiations – from Babylon to Shᵊm•ōtꞋ 23.16. were never understood as supportive of an autumnal Rosh ha-Shanah until after the Egyptian Sojourn, when Dark Ages Sages began looking to “reinterpret” Mesopotamian and Babylonian history as well as Scripture to intimate after-the-fact “earlier” support.
Rabbis exaggerate the recycling of Shᵊm•ōtꞋ 23.16.[Farber, loc. cit.] However, this passage doesn’t logically imply an autumnal Rosh ha-Shanah at all. This passage merely refers to the last “Harvest Khag of the “outgoing of the year”. But, duh, there has never been a question that the last harvest of the year being associated with the concluding months of the year.
Additionally, this passage describes a Khag that precedes the last harvest (Suk•ōtꞋ) of the year!!! That logically implies that Y ōm Tᵊrū•âhꞋ, as well as the subsequent Yom ha-Kipurim, along with the still subsequent Suk•ōtꞋ, are all, indisputably, in the old, outgoing, year!!!
This passage brings nothing new to the discussion. It says nothing at all about how much time then passes from this last, autumnal, harvest before the winter rains, until the “Rosh ha-Shanah” (New Year) the following spring. So this passage does not, in any logical way, instantiate “Rosh ha-Shanah” (as contrasted against the Scriptural Y ōm Tᵊrū•âhꞋ), as it is sometimes stretched to appear!
Similarly,Syrian (Ugaritic) cuneiform tablets [c. BCE 1450 – c. 1200 BCE] discuss celebrations of the final harvest of the year, not New Year.[Farber, loc. cit.]
Ca. B.C.E. 1755-1625 – Israel’s Egyptian Sojourn
Rather, Israel’s assimilation of an autumnal “New Year” is entirely due to her historical Egyptian Sojourn. There is no serious record of Israel’s embrace of an autumnal New Year prior to the Egyptian Sojourn.
Only in Egypt did the New Year unequivocally begin in autumn, and that was due to the annual Nile flooding, unique to Egypt, which culminated in autumn, irrigating the parched land that began the autumnal “New Year”.
Egyptian astronomers noted that the annual Nile flooding coincided with the astronomical rising above the Egyptian horizon of the brightest star in the night sky – Sirius (Sopdet; the “Dog” star), during the “Dog days” of late summer preceding the Nile flooding and the uniquely Egyptian “New Year”.
Hence, only in Egypt was the New Year fixed in the autumn. And this is where Israel was first clearly exposed to, and assimilated, Egypt’s idolatrous autumnal “New Year.”
This was also undoubtedly the reason that Mosheh so clearly and unequivocally repudiated the Egyptian “Rosh ha-Shanah”; declaring unambiguously, in defiance of the Israelis prevailing Egyptian custom, that the Israeli New Year was in the spring Firstmonth. Only during the later Babylonian Exile, did Israel assimilate the Babylonian spring month name “Nisan.”
This was also the date of First-month on the Judaic calendar, mandated from Har Sinai. First-month was the formal, and only, name of this month – until Jews in Babylon Exile assimilated the Babylonian name (Nisan). The Biblically faithful name remains unchanged: חׂדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוׂן (khōꞋdësh hâ-Rish•ōnꞋ; first-month).
Israel’s Post-Egyptian Lingering Idolatry Problem
Despite Mosheh’s admonitions against Egyptian idolatry, Israel assimilated, inter alia, the Golden Calf-mask of
Hât-HōrꞋ (corrupted to “Hathor”), which Moshe quickly stamped out, along with the idolatrous Egyptian autumnal New Year (Rosh ha-Shanah)!
B.C.E. 586 – The Babylonian Exile
Having assimilated the idolatrous Egyptian New Year as Rosh ha-Shanah, Diaspora Jews now assimilated the Babylonian month name: Tishrei, meaning “beginning.” (Though it was not the beginning of the New Year for Babylonians.)
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