Which Ancient Civilization Celebrated as Their New Year?

New Year celebrations have been a part of human history for thousands of years. Different civilizations have adopted different calendars, and each one has its unique way of celebrating the beginning of a new year. One such ancient civilization was the Babylonians.

The Babylonians celebrated their New Year, called “Akitu,” in late March during the vernal equinox. This celebration lasted for 11 days, and it was one of the most important events of the year for them. The festival was dedicated to their chief god Marduk.

The Akitu Festival

The Akitu festival was divided into two parts: The first part was called “zagmuk,” which means “the beginning.” During this phase, the Babylonians believed that chaos reigned supreme in the world, and they feared that their gods would abandon them. They performed various rituals to ensure that their gods remained with them throughout the year.

The second part of the festival was called “akitu,” which means “to make a new start.” During this period, the Babylonians showed gratitude towards their gods for providing them with a bountiful harvest and good fortune throughout the year. They also made resolutions to lead better lives in the coming year.

The Role of Marduk in Akitu

Marduk played a central role in the Akitu festival. He was considered to be the king of all gods and goddesses by the Babylonians.

During Akitu, there was a symbolic re-enactment of his victory over Tiamat (the primordial goddess of chaos). This re-enactment gave hope to people that good would triumph over evil.

The Importance of Akitu

The Akitu festival was an essential event for both religious and political reasons. It marked not only a new beginning but also demonstrated a strong connection between religion and politics. The Babylonian king would also participate in the festival, and his role was to re-affirm his allegiance to Marduk.

The Legacy of Akitu

The Akitu festival continued to be celebrated in Babylon until the Persian invasion in 539 BCE. However, its legacy lived on through the centuries, and it inspired other civilizations to celebrate their New Year at different times of the year.

  • The ancient Egyptians celebrated their New Year during the rising of the Nile River.
  • The Greeks celebrated their New Year on the winter solstice.
  • The Romans celebrated their New Year on January 1st, which was named after Janus (the two-faced god).


In conclusion, the Babylonians were one of the earliest civilizations to celebrate a New Year. The Akitu festival was an important event that marked a new beginning and demonstrated a strong connection between religion and politics.

Its legacy lived on through other civilizations that adopted similar practices. By understanding how different cultures celebrate a new beginning, we can appreciate our shared human history and look forward to a bright future.