01 April 2014

Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the month of Nisan (and thus New Year’s Day) on two different calendars.

In many cultures, including many Near Eastern cultures, the year begins in springtime (March–April in the Northern Hemisphere) rather than wintertime (January–February).

Levantine, Mesopotamian and Anatolian peoples (specifically the Assyrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Kurdish, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian and Turkish peoples) replaced the names of the Gregorian months with names from the Babylonian calendar, and so April is called Nisan (نيسان، ܒܢܝܣܢ) and Assyrians celebrate 1 Nisan (called Ḥad bi‐Nisan ܚܕ ܒܢܝܣܢ) as the first day of the year.

The Hebrew calendar (or at least the predominant one used by Jews from the Rabbinic tradition if not the Karaites and Samaritans with whose calendars I’m less familiar) also uses month names from the Babylonian calendar, and 1 Nisan (א׳ בניסן) is one of the four Jewish New Year’s Days (as the Jews have one in each of the four seasons). Although the autumnal New Year’s Day (Roʼsh hash‐Shana ראש השנה) has eclipsed the others, the springtime one was the principal one in antiquity and is still the principal one among the Karaites today.

So today is 1 Nisan on both calendars, which usually don’t coincide so precisely.


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