Happy New Year!
One of the symbols of a new year is “Baby New Year“!
The Baby New Year is an American personification of the start of a new year, commonly seen in various New Year’s customs, especially holiday cards and illustrations for store window displays.
The stereotypical representation of Baby New Year is as a male baby wearing nothing more than a diaper, a top hat and a sash across his torso that shows the year he is representing. Sometimes he is holding an hourglass or is otherwise associated with one. Often, he is not a complete newborn but is slightly older, because he is frequently shown standing on his own, barely walking, or having a small amount of head hair.
The myth associated with him is that he is a baby at the beginning of his year, but Baby New Year quickly grows up until he is an elderly bearded man like Father Time at the end of his year. At this point, he hands over his duties to the next Baby New Year.
In addition to being a mythical figure, the Baby New Year is sometimes a real person. The first baby born in any village or city in a certain year may be honored by being labeled as the official Baby New Year for that year. The official Baby New Year can be male or female, even though the mythical Baby New Year is nearly always male. Attempts to name an official Baby New Year for an entire country have sometimes been made, but generally there are multiple contenders and no single Baby New Year can be confirmed.
The custom of using a baby to symbolize the New Year began in Greece around 600 B.C. The Greeks celebrated their God of Wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket to represent the annual rebirth of Dionysus as the spirit of fertility. The early Egyptians also used the baby as a symbol of rebirth.
Although the early Christians denounced the practice of using a baby as being pagan in nature, its significance as a personification of rebirth later forced the Church to reevaluate its position. Eventually, it was decreed that Church members would be permitted to celebrate the New Year using a symbolic baby, provided it illustrated the birth of the baby Jesus.
The use of a baby’s image as a banner for New Year celebrations was brought to America by the Germans, who had used the effigy since the Fourteenth Century.