Why the new year starts on Jan. 1, a terrible time for renewal

Starting the new year on the first of January feels counterintuitive. We mark a fresh beginning in the dead of winter, when the days are shorter and the nights are colder. Who can make major life adjustments right now? Bears are hibernating; nature — metaphorically (and sometimes literally!) — is asleep.

It’s not easy to pick a day to kick off another rotation around the sun. The way humans devised systems to track time has been a complicated and fraught affair borne out over millennia and influenced by religious traditions, politics, seasonal change and astronomical events.

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