Briefcase: The Origins of New Year’s Day

Host: Dean Leonard Baynes


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As we begin a new year and a new decade, Dean Leonard Baynes, with the University of Houston Law Center, looks at the origins of the New Year's Day holiday.

"The tradition of New Year's Day dates back to 45 B.C. when Julius Caesar sought to create a more standard calendar. The day was dedicated to the roman god of Janus, representing new beginnings. With the advent of the Gregorian calendar, New Year's Day came to represent the celebration of the naming and circumcision of Jesus, still recognized as such by the Anglican church.”

“New Year's Day started to be recognized as a secular, legal holiday in the U.S. In the mid 1800s: in Connecticut and New York. Pushed by the business community, on June 28, 1870, Congress passed a statute giving federal employees in Washington DC New Year's Day off. In 1885, congress extended this holiday to all federal employees. Now all states also observe it as a state holiday.”

“New Year's Day is now one of the most celebrated holidays in the world, still recognizing its focus on new beginnings."

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