As part of his Chamber of Commerce responsibilities, Wesley spent the day yesterday visiting local businesses, gathering presents for Hettinger's New Year's Baby. As he carefully assembled an overflowing basket of goodies, I wondered about the origin of this tradition, and did a little research.
I found this old image of a 19th century Father Time & Baby New Year on Wikipedia. I think the contrast between young and old is especially lovely.
Historians believe that the tradition of "Baby New Year" originated in Greece around 600 BC. In celebration of Dionysus, the god of wine, the ancient Greeks paraded a baby in a basket, to represent the annual rebirth of Dionysus as the spirit of fertility. Historically, Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.
Early Christians denounced this practice as pagan, but the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the Church to reevaluate its position. The Church eventually allowed Christians to celebrate the new year with a the image of a baby, but specified that it was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus.
The Germans brought their traditional New Year's Banner adorned with the image of a baby to early America. This German tradition had been popular since the fourteenth century.
In modern times, Baby New Year symbolizes the young year ahead, and old Father Time reminds us of how the previous year has aged.
Due to the generosity of our local businesses, our Baby New Year and her parents should have a wonderful experience with this time honored tradition.
I'm glad I spent some time learning about the history behind the tradition. As I struggle to remember to write "2009" instead of "2008", and I try to stick to some of my pesky "New Year's Resolutions", I'll think of Father Time's clock ticking away, with Baby New Year snuggled in his arms. A new year is upon us, and is filled with joy, promise, hope, and rebirth!
Happy New Year from Dakota Cabin Quilts!