2006-12-28 / Sam Bari

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand

The New Year Baby
By Sam Bari

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand

Did you ever notice that icons or symbols represent all the major holidays? Uncle Sam, a household word and image, has been the symbol of Independence Day, or Fourth of July, since 1852, when cartoonist Frank Bellew drew the first bearded character with red, white and blue top hat and tails. A witch on a broom with her long pointed nose and hat is the symbol of Halloween, while Tom, the Turkey, represents Thanksgiving. Peter Rabbit has been the Easter Bunny for decades and, for centuries, Santa Claus has reigned supreme as the symbol of the secular celebration of Christmas. Even Valentine’s Day has Cupid to represent affairs of the heart.

All the holiday icons are easily recognized and respected for the marvelous jobs that they do. All except one, and that is — the New Year Baby. It is a real shame that the baby is not held in higher esteem, because the post only lasts for one year and the job is monumental. Think about it. The baby has a lot to do.

Last year, the New Year Baby welcomed more new arrivals than ever as the world population expanded to a projected 6,525,170,264 people, up approximately 1.14 percent over the previous year. The baby saw 2,821,000 students graduate from high school and 1,209,000 graduates from college.

According to our crack research team of Googlamaniacs, as 2006 began, the baby witnessed 15 significant ongoing armed conflicts (1,000 or more deaths) and another 23 “hot spots” that could slide into or revert to war. The upside of that statistic is that the total number of significant armed conflicts is eight less than in 2005, marking one of the largest declines in any one year and the lowest overall number at the beginning of a calendar year since this survey began 17 years ago. It might not be much, but the 2006 baby at least saw a slight, but much needed improvement. Keeping track of all these statistics is a formidable occupation.

If it wasn’t for the New Year Baby bringing in the first day of the year, we couldn’t have the grandest parade of all the parades in the world, the Tournament of Roses on Jan. 1. The grand marshals of that significant event have ranged from cartoon characters (Mickey Mouse) to last year’s grand marshal, Sandra Day O’Connor, a Supreme Court judge. Did a New Year baby ever get the gig? Never. And the Rose Bowl Parade kicks off the festivities for everything worth celebrating for the entire year. It’s just criminal that the baby should be left out.

The baby has a long history of upholding this commendable post. 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 Germans, who used the effigy since the Fourteenth Century, brought a baby’s image as a banner for New Year celebrations to America, although the date is uncertain.

Nonetheless, the job of New Year baby is not for the faint hearted. Every New Year Baby grows old in one year from the hardship of the post. By the end of the year, the New Year Baby turns into Old Man Time, the carrier of the scythe that became representative of the cruel and unrelenting flow of time, which in the end, cuts down all things.

The New Year Baby deserves a consistent image that represents the dignity of the post, even though Old Man Time presents a new baby every year in a system we simply cannot understand.

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