When we think of New Years day, it is unlikely that we as Christians have any moral qualms about partaking in the festivities. What could be so wrong with ringing in the New Year with corn bread and black eyed peas, fireworks and family? Well, in order to understand where the lines of idol worship blur, we must first start at the beginning.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, hence also of gateways, doorways, passages, portals, and the elements of change, movement, and time. He is usually depicted as having two bearded faces, thus referred to as Janus Geminus, but often times he has a bearded face looking to the past and a clean shaven face of youth looking to the future. Sometimes he is even depicted as having four faces looking to all four points of the earth. The Romans named the month of January in his honor.
It was essential to honor Janus at the beginning of every endeavor. From calender dates to crop planting, military action, marriages, and for each new dawn. He was the first god to be invoked before all others to help aid in rituals, rites, and prayers. He was the god of guarding transitions from youth to adulthood, from barbarity to civilization, from country to city. Janus was highly honored on New Year’s day, but also at the beginning of each month. Our modern concept of the old man of the past year, and the baby of the coming year, likely came from Janus’ two faces. As you celebrate this new year, I hope this will give you new insight to what……excuse me….whom…..you are celebrating and giving honor.