By Rudy A. Arizala
03 January 2010
Last New Year's Eve at the stroke of 12:00 midnight, we greeted each other in jubilation: “Happy New Year!” Modern men celebrated it wth fireworks, drinking, eating and dancing. Why?
Since time immemorial, thinkers and philosophers have wondered how reckoning of time or the beginning of the year started. The ancient Persian calendar is believed to have started with “Norwuz”- the feast of Spring. The Hebrew year begins in Autumn, while the Gregorian (solar) year starts in mid-winter. The Christian (Roman) liturgical calendar like the Hebrew calendar begins in Autumn whith the Advent season; followed by the Nativity or Christmas which follow the solar calendar; and the Resurrection or Easter which observes the lunar calendar.
The Hebrew calendar which according to tradition begun from the Creation, follow the lunar system. The Egyptian (with 365 days with 12 months); the Greek (with 304 days with 10 months); and the early Roman and Greek calendars were partly lunar but predominantly solar. The Julian calendar of 365 days with 12 months of 30 and 31 days a month and the Gregorian revision, showed preference for the seasonal cycle or solar method of reckoning time.
And so, by the Gregorian calendar we are now some 2,010 years since the time of Christ. The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, which counts years from the traditional incarnation of Jesus.
In rural Philippines, especially in Infanta, Quezon, the people observe both the solar and lunar methods. Most of you would probably still remember that our farmers of yesteryears reckoned the start of the year by the first drop of rain in May quenching the parched earth caused by the hot Summer months of March and April. But by June, when the rains have finally poured for weeks and weeks, the rice paddies are ready for plowing and planting palay seedlings again. And when March or April comes again with the sun shinning brightly in the blue sky, the golden stalks of palay are ready for harvest.
Harvest time in April is followed by May – the month of flowers and festivities in the rural areas. For the harvested palays have been stacked safely in “kamaligs” (makeshift warehouses) and the farmers are waiting for the rain to come again so that the parched earth could be ready again for plowing, harrowing, and then planting. In the meanwhile, the rural folks could indulge in simple festivities of thanksgiving, baptisms, etc, Wedding bells are reserved for June. It may be noted that our farmers of yesteryears were guided by the rain and sunshine or solar influence in reckoning time or season. Their year has no beginning or end, but an on-going cycle of life as if in a circle – of plowing, harrowing, transplanting, harvesting and plowing again.
However, with the introduction of irrigation canals and modern agriculture, farmers' time for plowing, planting and harvesting is no longer dependent on the seasons. As a consequence, they no longer observe nature with their senses, but depend on numbers or dates in calendars to know the season. Their natural bond with nature has been altered or disconnected even dulled by dependence on mechanical or electronic time pieces and printed calendars.
In the final analysis, in reckoning time, it does not matter to know the exact beginning or the end of the year either by solar, lunar or calendar, provided that the beginning of every day (season) fills us with hope, and its every end brings us a sense of a life-accepting joy and sorrow with faith – well lived. For as the Holy Book says: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens – A time for birth and time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what was planted; A time to break down and a time to build; A time to weep and a time to laugh. . .”
New Year is a time for joy, hope and celebration. A time for prayer, new life, hope and laughter. That is why we say to each other: HAPPY NEW YEAR! And we go on living because of hope.
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