Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years - Chukas haGoyim?

New Years, as we know, recognizes the 1st day of January, which is also the first day of the new year according to the Gregorian calendar. Rav Moshe in his Igros Moshe (EH, 2:13) says that if a secular holiday is based on gentile religious beliefs and is scheduled specifically on that day, it is prohibited to observe that holiday in any form, as it is an example of Maris Ayin. This is true regardless of whether or not a holiday currently has religious connotations (ie, Halloween). While I have seen articles discussing Thanksgiving and Halacha, I haven't seen any regarding New Years. The question is, did New Years have foundations rooted in religion?

The Gregorian calendar was instituted in 1582 (and signed off on by Pope Gregory, hence the name) and one reason this was done was because the lunar calendar, which was used to compute the date of Easter was moving away from a previously decided upon date. The switch over the Gregorian calendar was not a swift one, with England not officially making the switch until the 18th century. Nevertheless, it is clear that the calendar was founded with Christianity in mind. The question is: does celebrating the New Year of a calendar that has roots in Christianity against Halacha, even though it does not seem as though New Years itself was rooted in Christianity.

Rav Moshe felt (ibid.) felt that it is permissible according to Halacha to schedule a Seuda (Bar Mitzvah, Pidyod haBen, etc) on New Years and it doesn't violate Maris Ayin, although he does not discuss whether celebrating New Years for its own sake is permissible. "However, Terumat Hadeshen 195, writing nearly five hundred years ago classifies New Years as a religious holiday and this is quoted by Rama Yoreh Deah 148:12. Terumat Hadeshen discusses whether one maygive a New Year's Day gift and refers to January First as "the eighth dayof Christmas." He clearly understands the holiday as religious in natureand covered by the prohibition of assisting a Gentile in his worship." (copied from an e-mail sent by Rabbi Michael Broyde)

If you're at all interested in these kinds of things, the Wiki article on the Gregorian calendar is amazing. Fun fact: while we all think there is a leap year in February every 4 years, in reality it is every 4 years except in a year that is divisible by 100 but not 400. Put that in your blunt and smoke it.


Anonymous Erica said...

For some reason I thought that the secular years were started after the birth of Jesus or something? Isn't that why they thought that he would come again in 2000? I guess that wouldn't make too much sense if his "birthday" is Dec. 25th right?

9:35 AM, January 02, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

January 1st is the day of his bris, at least according to the Roman Catholic Church.

5:27 PM, January 23, 2007


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