I’ve always thought of New Year’s as a purely secular holiday, widely celebrated with champagne, confetti, and kisses at midnight. In the US, the most famous New Year’s celebration centers on the drop of the Times Square Ball in New York City, an event that attracts an audience of over a billion worldwide.
If it had any religious significance at all, I might have guessed it was a tribute to Dionysis, the Greek god of wine and revelry. Or perhaps to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, after which the month of January is named.
As it turns out, New Year’s is a traditional Christian holiday, commemorating the circumcision of Jesus Christ. The Feast of the Circumcision is still celebrated in some Christian communities around the world, eight days after Christmas, on January 1 of the Gregorian calendar.
Jesus is said to have been circumcised according to Jewish Law (Genesis 17:10-14). The New Testament specifically mentions Jesus’ circumcision in the Gospel of Luke:
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. ~ Luke 2:21
Traditional celebrations include all-night vigils, the singing of hymns, reflection, and prayer.
Whatever it means to you, we wish you a safe and happy new year in 2013.