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Review - Wild West Tech - Train Tech

Review - Wild West Tech - Shootout Tech

The Wild West Tech series is enjoyable for western history buffs. This particular episode focused on the spreading of the locomotive throughout the west.

Old trains were made mostly of wood which made them easily damaged and highly flammable. Sparks from the coal stove could catch the car on fire.

In San Antonio, a boiler exploded and 26 men were killed. Pieces of the train were found up to a mile away.

Before the railroad came, a trip across country on a wagon took months or a trip around Cape Horn via ship took almost a year. One could travel about a month through the area that would eventually be the Pananama Canal, but the locals demanded heavy payment and the journey was dangerous.

1862 marked the first Transcontinental Railroad.

Early rails were of "strap rail" construction - two planks of wood and a bar of iron strapped on top. This construction tended to come undone or the planks of wood tended to curl ("snakehead") causing trains to derail.

1856, Henry Bessemer of Bessemer Steel made steel tracks which were a lot stronger.

Interestingly, the initial straight smoke stacks allowed floating embers to fly into the passenger cars (igniting the wooden seats) or into nearby farm fields. The shape of the stack became cone shaped so the sparks became trapped inside preventing potential fires.

1869, George Westinghouse invented automatic air breaks. Previously, a brakeman had to run down a narrow cat walk, over cars, and set a handbrake manually. Very dangerous. 1872, an air compressor break was designed to run along a peper.

In 1830, there were 23 miles of tracks. In 1900, there was over 200,000 miles.

Review - The Real Story - True Grit



I really like the series "The Real Story" from the smithsonian Channel which features facts behind fictional stories or movies. Shows have included Braveheart, Apollo 13, Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, Pirates of the Caribbean and True Grit.

Charles Portis wrote "True Grit" in 1968 and it was made into a movie twice - the 1969 John Wayne version and the 2010 Jeff Bridges version. It tells the story of a fourteen year old girl, Mattie Ross, who tracks down her father's murdered by hiring the toughest marshal (a man with "true grit") that she can find. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who is also after the murderer (Chaney).

The drunken, one-eyed U.S. Marshal was Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, a Civil War veteran who killed 23 men, supposedly out of self defense, during his career as marshal.

1851 colt Navy cap and ball revolver - took forever to reload, plow-handle shaped handle, accurate up to 50 ft.

Winchester 1873 Rifle was accurate up to 400 yards, lever-action, 14 rounds per load.

During this time, deputies worked on commissions and not on salary, so they had to cover their own expenses. Oftne they performed side gigs and pursued warrants. They could get 6 cents a mile to go out to get someone and 10 cents a mile to bring someone back under arrest. Deputies walked a thin line between good and bad (abuse of power).

Fort Smith, Arkansas had a jail known as "hell on the border". It was dirty, smelly, and had a bucket for a bathroom. By the 1870's, the jail was overcrowded. On Fort Smith's hanging day, over 5000 people came to watch, including consession salesmen (hawkers). About 100 people hung in their gallows.

Judge Isaac Parker, known as "Hanging Judge Parker", 36, was from a small town in Ohio and had a wife named Mary. He sentenced 79 men to die from the gallows.

Indian Territory was desolate, wide open, and made it a haven for dangerous criminals. 17,000 of the 22,000 white people were criminals. It consisted of over 64,000 square miles so it was difficult to police. There were 5 native tribes, the Creeks being the most violent.

Deputy Marshal's job was a lot like a private investigator - had to go interview people, tracked criminals down, went undercover. But it was a dangerous job and 1/5 of Fort smith's deputy marshals were killed.

Resources: The Real Story series





Review - Book - Madame Millie



I have been doing some research in the area of Old West bordellos and found this interesting book, set a little after the Old West (in the twentieth century), but the practices are similar and the rural townships are similar, it was still worthwhile to read.

Mildred Clark Cusey lived from the 1920's - 1970's periods. She was also known as Silver City Millie.

Mildred started her career as a Harvey Girl waitress on the Santa Fe Railroad line. This was a "prestigous" gig in those days.

A lot of people wonder why a woman would turn to prostitution if there were other opportunities to make money (cooking, washing, etc). Take a look at these stats and you can see that a woman could become very wealthy:

In Virginia City, Nevada =, during the Washoe Rush, there were 2379 men and only 147 women. Another stat says in many booming areas, there were 7 men to every 1 woman.

Of course, the problem comes when soiled doves start heading to a place. Then there is too much competition and the prices go down.

For example, in Cripple Creek, Colorado in the 1890's, there was a five mile stretch of "red light district" that featured every type of woman and race. In comstock, Nevada there were 307 prostitutes in 1875 (almost 10 percent were under 18 years old). Another example, Rawhide, Nevada's "Stingaree Gulch" stretched a quarter of a mile with over 500 women.

There was another side to prostitution - drugs. Laudanum (a derivative of opium) was readily available and girls often overdoesed. Suicide was also high among "fallen angles"

An interesting marketing technique performed by Jennie Rogers in Denver, she would take her girls on a coach ride through town to show what was available. Another marketing tool was full-length photographs of girls dressed in their best outfits and these cards were given to their favorite customers. For Mille, she would have a new girl walk a poodle downtown with a special hat to advertise she was available for business.

The term "Red Light District" came about from the red lantern railroaders hung outside the brothel so that the trainmaster could find them if needed (during the day or night).

Review - Video - Wild West Tech - Shootout Tech



I'm going to be posting a lot of reviews in the coming months based on the Wild West Tech video series from the History Channel. They are fun shows featuring David Carradine (of Kill Bill and Kung Fu fame) or his brother, Keith. Each episode focuses on a different topic of interest inthe Old West.

Today, I chose the Shootout Tech episode since shootouts are the main staple of any good western movie. Unfortunately, the shootouts portrayed in the movies are much more exciting and action-packed than what happened in the 1800s.

The main gun involved in a shootout was the six-shooter - mainly the "Peacemaker" Colt .45 caliber single-action revolver. The force was enough to knock down a man.

Interestingly, during this period, the "gunslinger" or "gunfighter" terms were not commonly used. People said "gunman" or "pistoleer".

February 8, 1887 - shootout between "Long Hair" Jim Courtright and Luke Short. Short hit Jim in the thumb who quickly switched hands (called a "border shift") but his gun jammed. Luke managed to shoot and kill him.

Jamming was common. Any type of moisture could interfere with the gunpowder and jam a gun. Malfunction could jam a gun.

1879 - Dodge City, Kansas - Frank Loving (Colt) vs Levi Richardson (.44 Remington) at the Long Branch Saloon. Although the guns they used were similar, Remington's balance was inferior to the Colt. Frank won the match.

July 1865 - Springfield, Missouri - the first recorded shootout was between Dave Tutt (professional gambler) and Wild Bill Hickok (who used a 1851 Colt Navy, cap revolver).

August 25, 1877 - Madam Maddie Silks vs Madam Kate who fought over Cort Thompson. They tried to shoot then they used their fists.

Welcome to the Wild West!

For the next few months, I'm going to switch gears and concentrate on the American Wild West which I am researching for my current manuscript. It's going to be fun! I've had the opportunity to visit actual historical sites and talk to experts in 19th century history, so be on the lookout for pictures.

Review - Video - Where did it Come From? Ancient Rome: The Mobile Society



What really set Rome apart in the ancient world was their vast highway system and the amazing engineering of the roads.

In 312 BC, there was about 53,000 miles of roadways.

Roads and bridges were built as a way for soldiers to get to the battle sites as well as for merchants to reach distant cities.

Via Appai, "The Appian Way", 350 miles long, was named after Appius.

    The process for building a roadway included:
  • 1. Dig a trench just under 3 ft
  • 2. Fill the trench with large stones
  • 3. Next, fill the trench with small stones and a lime-water mix
  • 4. Next, lay down some gravel and flint and pack it down
  • 5. Finally, neatly level and lay down flat paving stones


Roads were crowned to allow water to slope to the sides and run off.

Not all roads were paved, some were gravel.

A Roman Surveyor was sent to evaluate the terrain/land.

Flaminian Way went through the mountain. A crew of men used a process of heating the rock and then cooling it quickly to create fissures. Then they used chisels and hammers to break through the solid rock.

Milvius Bridge, 142 BC, was the first bridge made of stone. Guidebooks existed in ancient times. During the Pax Romana (Period of Peace), many tourists and travellers came through.

The Roman Mile was measured as 1000 paces a Roman soldier could walk. Mile came from mille, the Latin word for 1000.

Vehicle rentals were made available, including wagons, carts, carriages, horses, mules and a driver.

Full service rest stops ("road houses") also sprang up at regular intervals.

Mile stones (like our modern day mile marker) showed the name of the town, distance, and name of the stone builder.

There were four major roads into Rome: Via Appia Via Latina Via Flaminia Via Aurelio

Review - Video - Cities of the Underworld - Gladiators: Blood Sport

In the Third Season of the video documentary series Cities of the Underworld, Don Wildman takes us inside some unusual places such as Las Vegas' Secret Sin City, Hitler's Trenches, Alcatraz Down Under and four disc's worth of other explorations. The episode we're reviewing today is the "Gladiators: Blood Sport" where Don inspects crypts and chambers used for worship and the training school. Ludus Magnus is the largest training ground with tunnels to the Colosseum. It was over 100 yards long and over three stories high with walls of gleaming marble. The complex contained barracks, kitchens, medical facilities, weapons factory and was strictly guarded (especially since a lot of gladiators were slaves). Weapons mimiced those of conquered foreign armies. Spartacus was a Thracian slave, forced into gladiatorial school. He revolted with 80 others, taking carts of weapons and kitchen knives. Eventually he had over 120,000 men and fought for 2 years. However, they were outnumbered by the Roman army and Spartacus died. The rebels were impaled along the main road, Via Appia (Appian Way) (people are also buried along this road). Weapon-handling became very closely guarded after this. Gladiatorial games were financed by Senators and wealthy men to gain more prestige among fellow men and to garner support for political careers. Julius Caesar regularly borrowed money to pay for game to increase his popularity. The first gladiatorial games were held at the Old Cattle Market where two men fought to the death during a small funerary ceremony. Average lifespan for a gladiator was 25 years even with the best foods and medical services available at the time. Gladiators were buried according to "position". The last gladiatorial game was held in 404 AD.

Review - Video - Cities of the Underworld - Beneath Vesuvius

Cities of the Underworld is a video series that goes beyond the normal touristy spots of a city to the foundations (under ground) and explores catacombs, crypts and other fascinating secrets. In Season 1, we are shown places such as Scotland's Sin City (Edinburgh), Hitler's Underground Lair (Berlin), Rome's Catacombs, London's Lost Cities, Dracula's Underground (Bucharest), Beneath Vesuvius (Naples, Italy) and lot others. In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, sending ash miles away and completely covering Pompeii. The eruption lasted over 24 hours reaching temperatures up to 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. Gas or smoke suffocated most of the people. In a lot of places, the volcanic ash got rained upon and created massive mudslides. One marketplace was found twenty feet below Naples because of the mudslide. The ash-mud preserved a lot of historical sites, which is great for archaeologists today because they can dig into the layers and see what life was like during that time. Pompeii is famous for the people frozen in time by ash. Tufa bricks (made of volcanic rock-ash) were strong enough to cut and be used for building projects. People built over the previous sites (covered by mud/ash). One example was San Gudioso. Underneath the ground were fourth century catacombs carved out of the tufa and niches carved into the walls for the crypts. On top of this, a church was built in the 16th century.

Research - Ancient Rome - The City of Rome - Aventine Hill

Aventine (Aventino) Hill is the southern most hill of the Roman seven (and it's the fifth hill of the seven in our blog series). Between the Aventine Hill and Palatine Hill is the Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo), the ancient stadium used for chariot races and ludi (public games during religious festivals). Days of ludi increased from 57 to 135 by the 1st century AD. The Circus Maximus was the largest at the time at 2037 ft long by 387 ft wide and held over 150,000 people. In the 1st century AD, the Colliseum was built for other forms of public entertainment - gladiatorial games.
The Baths of Decius, the big building near the Tiber River in the front, was built around 242 by the emperor Decius.
Basilica of Saint Sabina at the Aventine was built in the 5th century (between 422 and 432) by Priest Petrus and was later given to the Roman Catholic Dominican order. Interestingly, the windows are not made of glass but are made of selenite. The campanile or bell tower was added in the 10th century.
A real find is the municipal Garden of Roses (Roseto Comunale), which had previously been a Jewish cemetary.
There is also the Garden of Oranges(Giardino degli Aranci or Parco Savello) beside the remains of the Savelli Castle built by Alberico II and later given to the Dominican Order as a monastery. Legend says Saint Dominic planted the infamous orange tree that still grows there today and Saint Catherine of Siena used one of its oranges to make candied fruit for Pope Urban VI.
Another popular find is the picturesque keyhole-view of St. Peter's in door number 3.
In the 6th century BC, the king of Rome, Servius Tullius, became enamored with the Temple of Ephesus, so he decided to build a similar community project, the Temple of Diana, with the help of the Romans and the Latins. The temple became the center of the Latin League (a group of city-states) and Diana became its patron goddess.
During the middle ages it was occupied by churches or monasteries.

References: Excellent Site for Views of the Hill Wikipedia - Seven Hills of Rome Wikipedia - Aventine Hill Rome Tour - Walks around Aventine Rome Art Lover Delicious Italy Italy Heaven - Garden of Roses Italy Guides - Garden of Oranges Temple of Diana Temple of Diana Servius Tullius

Image Credits: RomeTour - Aventine Hill Wikipedia - Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta Wikipedia - Circus Maximus Explore Italian Culture - Garden of Roses Diana Aventine Overview Decius Bust Hercules

Research - Ancient Rome - The City of Rome - Quirinal Hill

Today we are taking a look at Quirinal Hill (Collis Quirinalis), the tallest of the seven hills, named after Quirinus, a god of war. The word quiris means "spear". The hill has always held the seat of power and as the tallest it was a desirable location for wealthy villas and residences.



On the hill, the Quirinal Palace (Palazzo del Quirinale) was built in 1583 as a summer residence for Pope Gregory XIII (who died shortly after). Other popes enjoyed it as a summer home until 1870 when it was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy and became the residence of the king. Today, it is the home of the President of the Italian Republic (much like the White House is the home of the United States president). And just like Buckingham Palace, there is even a changing of the guard every day at 3pm.


In the piazza there is an obelisk (standing 46 feet tall) next to statues of Castor and Pollux taming horses (18 feet tall). The obelisk here was originally part of a pair which may have been erected for the Great Tomb of Emperor Augustus but no firm eveidence supports that. The second obelisk was placed at Piazza del Esquilino. The statues were erected in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V but the granite base was added later in 1818. The water feature was installed in the 19th century and was originally a water trough.


The Church of Saint Andrew's (Sant Andrea al Quirinale) was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (and is arguably one of his best works) and constructed in 1661. It is a good example of Roman Baroque architecture - excessive designs, grand details, empahsis on movement.
White and gold stucco of the dome contrasts with the colorful marble walls and floors.

References:
Italy Guides - excellent panoramic views
Wikipedia - Quirinus
Wikipedia - Quirinal Palace
A View on Cities
National Geographic (in Italian) - Quirinal Palace
Piazza del Quirinale Obelisk
Wikipedia - Sant Andrea al Quirinale







Image Credits:
Wikipedia - Quirinal Palace
A View on Cities
Wikipedia - Sant Andrea al Quirinale

Research - Ancient Rome - The City of Rome - Esquiline Hill

Today we are taking a look at Esquiline Hill (Collis Esquilinus), the largest of the seven hills.

Esquiline Hill has three prominent spurs: Cispian (northern spur), Oppian (southern spur) and Fagutal (western spur) that are often thought of as separate hills.

In the early years of Rome, the area was used for burial pits (puticuli)(for the poor), a little more formal burials (for the middle class and merchant class), and the garbage refuse because the hill extended outside the city proper (Romans buried their dead outside the city). Due to diseases and stench, the first Roman emperor, Augustus, had the area covered up and the dead buried in another area outside the city. Gaius Cilnius Maecenas(70 BC-8 BC), patron of the arts,around 40 BC, laid out the garden complex Horti Maecenatis over the once unsavory area. It contained many croppings of buildings, statuary, a palace, a tower, and Macaenus’ Auditorium which still stands today. After Maecenas' death, the property became an imperial dwelling of many emperors.

In the sixth century BC, ruler Servius Tullius set up his residence on the hill making it a desirable location for wealthier citizens.

After a fire swept through Rome in 64 CE, clearing valuable land, Emperor Nero built his Golden House (Domus Aurea) on part of the hill (as well as on parts of Palatine and Caelian hills because it was so enormous). After his suicide in 68, Nero's complex was torn up, buried or destroyed and his lake in the valley was filled in and eventually became the foundation for the Flavian Amphitheatre (the Colosseum).


Nero's statue, Colossus Neronis, still stands outside the amphitheatre.


The Baths of Trajan, an enormous bathing complex, was built from 104 to 109 AD.

In the 3rd century, the large villa of Horti Liciniani was built, named for the Licinia family. Emperor Licinius Gallienus (260-268 A.D.) lived there and had a colossal statue erected. Horti Liciniani includes a group of gardens and the Temple of Minerva Medica.


The Temple of Minerva Medica (Tempio Di Minerva Medica) is an interesting example of classical architecture with twelve sides (dodecagon) and each side a semicircle (except the entrance). The diameter is 25 meters. The building got its name from a statue of Minerva with a snake that was found here.


References:
Muse's Realm - A map of the Seven Hills of Ancient Rome
Wikipedia - Seven Hills of Rome - more description on the seven hills
Horti Maecenatis
Ancient Sites
Ancient Sites - Mons Esquilinus
Ancient History - 7 Hills of Rome

Image Credits:
Quondam - Map of Horti Luciliani
Roman Museum
Art Archive - beautiful painting of the hill

Research - Ancient Rome - The City of Rome - Capitoline Hill


Continuing our excavation of the ancient city of Rome, we come to Capitoline Hill (or Campidoglio), the smallest but most sacred of the infamous seven hills. This is where the Capitoline Triad - the Temple to Jupiter, Juno and their daughter, Minerva, stood. The Temple of Jupiter, the city's first, was considered the most sacred.

The hill was home to the Roman Senate and some of the municipal buildings. In 390 BCE, the city was attacked by Gauls and people hid on this hill to avoid capture. In the Middle Ages, goats would graze upon the hill, earning it the nickname Monte Caprini ("Goat Hill" or "Mountain Goat").


In 1535, Michaelangelo Buonarroti was comissioned to renovate Capitoline Hill, making it the center of the city again. he designed the piazza that is surrounded by palaces. His design begins at the base of the hill and ascends to the hill with steep, narrow steps leading to the Santa Maria in Arcoeli church. Legend says the stairs progress steeper and steeper to indicate the difficult climb to spirituality/Christianity.


At the base of the flat road (cordonata) are two Egyptian lions which were originally in front of the Santo Stefano del Cacco church but were moved in 1562. In 1588, they were remodeled into fountains with water from the Acqua Felice aqueduct.

Statues of Emperor Constantine (the first Christian emperor) and his son, Constantine II stand further from the stairs.


The Senator's Palace (Palazzo Senatorio), built in the 12th century, is in the center of the piazza graced by a bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback. Two giant statues of the Heavenly Twins, Castor and Pollux, stand as protectors of Rome on either side of the stairs.



80 degrees from the Senator's Palace is the Conservators' Palace (Palazzo dei Conservatori) and across is the New Palace (Palazzo Nuovo).

Capitoline Hill lies between the Roman Forum and the Campus Martius. It was originally the city's citadel

The English word "capitol" derived from Capitoline.


References:
BBC - Primary History - Romans - excellent site with lots of images, videos, games, links and trivia
Hadrian's - interesting factoids

Muse's Realm
- A map of the Seven Hills of Ancient Rome
Wikipedia - Seven Hills of Rome - more description on the seven hills
Wikipedia - Capitoline Hill - detailed information
The-Colosseum.net
Enjoy Rome
EurAtlast
Roman Guide


Image Credits:
Wikipedia - Seven Hills of Rome
Basic Roman City Topography - Topographical Map
Sacred-Destinations
HotelRome.net
Art History Presentations - Michaelangelo's Design
RomeArtLover - nice pictures of the hill

Review - TV Show - The Supersizers Go - Roman

One of my new favorite food shows is "The Supersizers Go" on the Cooking Channel. It stars Giles Coren (a British restaurant critic) and Sue Perkins (comedienne) who dress in period costumes, act as particular and somewhat amusing characters, and experiment with the eating habits and dishes of different periods in British history. The episodes are comical and light-hearted even when the food they try looks extremely unappealing. And they sprinkle in some historical tidbits.

In this particular episode, Giles plays the part of a Senator while Sue plays a Vestal Virgin.

Some of the foods they try:
Garum - fermented fish sauce that is used like ketchup on most dishes
Duck tongue
Poached eggs
Spelt (a kind of wheat bread)
Boiled goat, roasted mutton
Jellyfish, moran eels
***Meat and fish were generally enjoyed by the wealthier citizens. Red mullet was incredibly expensive.


Interesting historic tidbits:
Romans ate with knives, spoons and their fingers.

Romans invented the first salad, called herba salata. It was eaten with vinegar, oil and salt. When it was introduced to Europeans, they called it "Roman" and eventually the name evolved into "Romaine".

They used a mortarum (pestle and mortar).



Catch part of the show HERE.



References:
Cooking Channel

BBC

Apicius - a collection of recipes

Garde Manger - the first salads

Research - Ancient Rome - The City of Rome - Palatine Hill

In an earlier post, we quickly went through the history of Rome. In this next series of posts, I'd like to delve deeper into the city of Rome and its layout and special features with some links to maps. First, let's start with the infamous seven hills. In Latin, the word "Collis" means "Hill".

Rome geographically contains seven hills, just east of the Tiber River, as you can see from this image.

The city began officially in 753 BC on Palatine (Palatium or Palatino) Hill, centrally located. Upon this hill wealthy citizen and emperors build their homes and palaces, so the word palatine (or palatinus) has come to mean "palace". Augustus was the first to build his palace here and a temple to the god Apollo. The Roman Forum was built on one side and the Circus Maximus on the other. The Flavian palace overlooks the Circus Maximus. You can also find the House of Tiberius and the Hippodrome of Domitian here.










Further Reading:
World Archaeology - Information about Palatine Huts discovered in the hill.
Daily Mail - Discovery of Nero's infamous rotating dining room in the Golden Palace.
Discovery News - Findings of Augustus' birth place (be sure to check out the slide show link in the article)

References:

Muse's Realm
- A map of the Seven Hills of Ancient Rome
Wikipedia - Seven Hills of Rome - more description on the seven hills
Wikipedia - Palatine Hill - detailed information about this hill

Image Credits:
Wikipedia - Seven Hills of Rome

Basic Roman City Topography - Topographical Map

Palatine Hill Terraces

Palatine Hill

Research - Ancient Rome - The Origins of New Years Day and Resolutions

Ancient Babylonians are credited with the earliest celebrations of "new year" with a religious festival called Akitu (meaning barley) in late March.

It made sense that "New Years" was celebrated when Spring brought in good weather and initiated the cycle of planting/harvesting new crops. Some countries celebrated specific annual events (like the Egyptian Nile flooding) and/or astrological events (such as the Chinese honoring the second new moon after winter solstice).

Ancient Romans continued to celebrate spring or March (The Festival of Calends) as the new year until they added to their Julian Calendar the month of "January", named after the god Janus. Janus, the god of doors or beginnings, had two heads - to look backwards (on the past) and to look forward (on the future). As a side note, the original Roman calendar only had 10 months and it was frequently altered by new rulers.

Even before the Gregorian calendar was adopted, which replaced the older Julian calendar, most people were celebrating New Years Day on January 1st. A few countries/areas continued to celebrate "new year" in Spring (with the Feast of Annunciation) until the Gregorian calendar was officially adopted in 1752. Some countries celebrated new year after summer. One such celebration is called Samhain or Summer's End.

People celebrated New Year (regardless of the calendar used or the actual date) with sweets, gift exchanges, and feasts. In Rome, a festival was held that lasted three days and even allowed slaves to participate. Typically, slaves had their own holiday/celebration days separate from the citizens, but this was one of the times of the year where they celebrated together regardless of citizenship. It was a time to renew friendships and put aside past transgressions. Gifts were given to the emperor (more lavish gifts than normally bestowed) in return for favors. This practice also became popular in other countries, such as Persia.

In 487 AD, New Year's Day was declared the Feast of the Circumcision, the eighth day after Christ was born, a solemn Christian holiday that disallowed parties or heathenist celebrations. Over time, however, festivities returned, especially in the middle ages.

The act of making New Year resolutions is believed to have started when ancient Babylonias promised to return borrowed tools to their rightful owners. English people cleaned their chimneys on New Years day, which eventually morphed into the idea of "cleaning the slate", the act of resolving to start afresh in the new year.



References:

Wikipedia - New Years Day

History.com - New Years

The Traditions of New Year