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Head to Head: Should Jews Celebrate New Years?

With the new year approaching, two students ponder the question of whether or not they should celebrate it’s arrival.


Without a Doubt!

By: Bailey Spitz (12th)

What are we celebrating on New Year? If the concern is about religious connotations, specifically that related to Christianity, then there is potentially a valid argument. However, there is no link between Christianity and the start of the secular new year. Julius Caesar initiated January 1st as the first day of the new year. In fact, Christian leaders tried to switch the date of the new year to December 25. Following the Gregorian calendar is more so a question of assimilating into the secular world than New Years being based in other religions. If this is the question, then I believe there is nothing wrong with celebrating New Years. As Jews, we are meant to maintain our Jewish identity, and that is something significantly important to me. I acknowledge Rosh Hashanah as the start of the new year. However, it is possible to live in a secular world and still maintain one’s religiosity. A huge part of living in today’s society is knowing the Gregorian year, even if you live by the Jewish calendar. There is nothing wrong with that. One can acknowledge the start of the new secular year and also acknowledge the start of the Jewish year. I believe that as Jews living in a secular environment we can commemorate New Year in a non-religious way. Watching the ball drop on TV on New Year has no religious significance. Therefore, I see no issue with celebrating New Year.

Definitely Not!

By: Herschel Karp (12th)

To preface, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the first of January as the start of the secular year. However, the question is not asking whether or not we should accept this basic societal truth, rather if we should celebrate it. Rosh Hashanah, a day where we accept upon ourselves the kingship of Heaven for the upcoming year and commemorate the creation of mankind, is truly an occasion to celebrate. Furthermore, Judaism provides three additional dates which are referred to as “New Years”, all commemorating occasions for which we should be legitimately joyous. Thus, feeling the need to celebrate an arbitrary day on the secular calendar seems to imply a lack of new beginnings in our yearly cycle, of which there clearly is not. Moreover, although now far removed from its beginnings, January 1st is still rooted in a paganistic origin. The Talmud in Masechet Avodah Zarah, 8a, actually discusses New Years, calling it by its Roman name, Kalenda, listing it as one of the holidays celebrated by idol worshippers. Therefore, not only is this day spiritually rooted in paganism and idolatry but as a purely secular day. Celebrating it seems to imply that our legitimate New Years are not enough.

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