This is the greeting of the moment, which in Spanish can be expressed several ways: “¡Feliz Año Nuevo!” (Happy New Year), “¡Feliz Año!” (Happy Year), or “¡Próspero Año Nuevo!” (Prosperous New Year).
New Year’s Eve is la Nochevieja in Spanish: literally ‘the old night’.
January (Spanish enero, not capitalized) is named for Janus, the Roman god of doorways, who had one face looking backwards and another forward. As most of us do at this time of year: New Year’s resolutions (Spanish resoluciones de año nuevo) appear to date back to Roman times. Breaking them is likely just as old.
The year hasn’t always started in January. Among other dates, that honor fell for many centuries to March 25, in the early springtime of the Northern Hemisphere. January 1 replaced it when the Gregorian calendar was adopted (in 1582 in Catholic countries, later elsewhere, including 1752 in England).
For dates from Jan. 1 through Mar. 24 of the years around the time of the changeover, one often sees O.S. (Old Style) or N.S. (New Style) following the date, meant as a clarification: in the Old Style, the year changed not on Jan. 1 but on Mar. 25. So, for instance, Mar. 14, 1753 O.S. would be Mar. 14, 1754 N.S.
In the French Republican calendar, after the Revolution, the year started on our Sep. 22.
The fiscal year, depending on the country, begins the first of January, April, July, or October. The school year starts in March in the Southern Hemisphere, traditionally in September in the North (though now, schoolchildren glumly face an ever earlier start, as early as the first week of August!).
Other New Years are not fixed: this year the Jewish New Year will be Sep. 24-26; the Islamic, Oct. 24-25; and the Chinese, Jan. 31.
Even birthdays can be considered, and many people do think of them this way, as the beginning of a personal new year.
In truth, every year brings many New Years. May each and every one of them, in the course of 2014, bring health and prosperity, dear reader, to you and yours.
¡Buenas palabras… Good words!
Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, CT, is an ATA Certified Translator (Engl>Span) and a Supreme Court of Tennessee Certified Interpreter (Engl<>Span). An earlier version of this essay was originally published in the Dec. 30, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014 edition of La Prensa Latina, Memphis, Tennessee, as part of the weekly bilingual column “Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation”/Misterios y Enigmas de la Traducción.