New Year 2006
by Joe Espiritu
A few days from now will be New Year. The date of the Gregorian calendar, which the world commonly uses, will change from 2006 to 2007. This means two thousand and seven years had passed since the death of Jesus Christ, which started the Christian era. The rest of the world uses the Gregorian calendar for all other happenings. However, in terms of existence, the present calendar is of recent invention. The earth is much older than that. It took a large number of years before the calendar was invented.
The world is very old and human beings are very young. Events in our lives are measured in years or less, our lifetimes in decades and generations in centuries and all recorded history in millennia. Ever since the invention of writing some two thousand years before the Christian Era, we had been preceded by a vast vista of time extending to the tremendous periods in the past of which we know little. Despite that, we were able to date events in the remote past through geological stratification and radioactive dating. These sciences provided information in archeological, pale ontological and geological events while astrophysical theory provided data on the existence of the planets, suns and stars of our universe
Science says that the present existence started with the Big Bang an event, which involved all the matter and energy of the present universe. The Big Bang may be the beginning of the universe or it might be a discontinuity in which information on early existence had been destroyed. We may never know. Though it took the universe some fifteen billion years to reach its present form, life on earth began some two hundred million years ago and homo sapience or Man the Wise started to exist some two million years ago.
Man started as a hunter, fisher and gatherer to support his existence. However, such livelihood depended on the vagaries of nature. Sometimes he has to go hungry for a long spell due to scarcity of game or adverse climatic conditions. He was able to domesticate grasses to give him grain and animal to give him meat, fur and hide. Thus agriculture was born. Success in agriculture depends upon the prediction of the cycle of the seasons so in river countries like those in the Mesopotamia and Egypt has to anticipate the flow of the waters to irrigate their farms. They devised the calendar to know when the flood and drought will occur in each year.
The appearance of the Dog Star told them that the rivers, Tigris , Euphrates and Nile would overflow its banks, thus starting of the farming season. They devised time reckoning method according to their numbers system based on the number six. Thus, there are sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, thirty days in a month and they were able to able to compute to a reasonable degree of accuracy that an annual event will happen every 365 or 366 days. The year was then divided into 365 days with corrections every now and then.
There were cultures, which started their year in March, the month, on which the vernal equinox fall. At the height of the power of the Roman Empire, Julius Cesar decreed that the New Year will fall after the Saturnalia, which is celebrated December 23 pr whereabouts. Thus, New Year was celebrated in January 1. Although the Julian calendar was reformed later by Pope Gregory, January 1 is still considered the start of the year. There are other cultures, which reckon their dates from some important event but they are only referred to for their religious events. Middle Eastern and eastern cultures still use the lunar calendar and they celebrate their New Year at the first new moon after January. The lunar month is shorter than the so they have to time their New Year later than the Gregorian New Year.