Ringing in a Not-So-New Year

Is January 1 the beginning of the year for non-Christians?

BY: Arthur Magida


My wonderful new neighbors are fairly religious Muslims from Iran. As much as I'd like them to come to my New Year's party, I worry that with all the carousing, they might feel it's almost a pagan event. On the other hand, would the "no alcohol" rule I have at my New Year's parties make it acceptable to them (since religious Muslims don't drink)?

Also, is January 1 even the start of a new year for them?

They're newcomers to America, so give them a chance to see how we ring out the old, ring in the new!

Our customs are raucous, noisy and unsettling. There's no getting around that. But it might be better for your Iranian friends to see firsthand what's going on rather than observe it at a distance on TV. That way, they can ask questions about why tens of thousands gather in Times Square to cheer as a giant ball descends and enjoy alcoholic libations and hug and kiss. Now, why would anyone think that's pagan?

And no, January 1 does not begin a new year for Muslims. Nor is it "officially" New Year's for many other people around the globe. But the worldwide prevalence of the Gregorian calendar--the calendar used in the West--has pretty much made that a moot point by now.

For instance, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is celebrated in the fall. It usually occurs between mid-September and mid-October, depending on when it falls in the Jewish calendar, which is a predominantly lunar calendar but is also adjusted for solar events.

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