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Thoughts on English New Year's Day

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Professor Dr. Anwarul Karim :
January 1, the English New Year's Day once again dawns on earth's diurnal course. The day shines with a jovial mood of greeting the New Year's Day, vibrant and throbbing with exuberance and ushering in a change in life for a better and peaceful society than the past year. And all are  in praise of the New year for better days in future. None bothers for the past years.  The world bids 'good bye' to the old, welcoming the new. The sky today in Bangladesh   is also brilliantly radiant as the morning sun rises once again in the east leaving behind the darkness of the night, bidding everybody to bury the hatchet and start afresh.  But the setting sun has its golden glow when it finally sets in spreading the red carpet all over the western sky and a patch of cloud with red hue of the beauteous rose in the western sky giving vent to a melancholy strain as the old year is seen making room for the New to take over.  
And thus Tennyson speaks in his poem 'In Memoriam':
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Yet the old has also its due. There are achievements too.  No doubt that there are failures and lapses. The old year also warns the New to guard against the odd so that things do not repeat. Old year provides the lesson to the New. There are despairs and sufferings. And yet the Sun rises every time with the disappearance of dark night.  
New Year's Day in Bangladesh and elsewhere
Bangladesh today celebrates English New Year Day along with other countries in the world to mark the end of the year 2018 and welcoming 2019 for a bright beginning socially and globally.    
She also follows Gregorian calendar and maintains day today account and other activities in accordance with the English calendar. Banks and other trade institutions also follow Gregorian calendar to maintain links with the western and other countries which have been following the same calendar for years. Again in Bangladesh some trade organizations also follow Bengali calendar.  In family life, people follow Bengali Calendar at times of marriage or any religious rites. These are common in respect to Hindu community. The older people in villages follow Bengali calendar named, 'Ponjika'      
Bangladesh, however, does not celebrate  the English New Year's  day nationally because she has her own New Year Day that falls on April 14 ( 1st of Baisakh) and that connects Bengali speaking people nationally all over the  world wherever they stay. Bangladesh observes   the English New Year day only to be in line or keeping in touch with the world as a part of global village.
In present day, almost all countries in the world now have been using the Gregorian calendar in their day today business transaction. New Year's Day is observed in the world that   marks the start of the  new year according to the Gregorian calendar. It is a relatively modern practice. On this occasion people greet one another, visiting and merry making or feasting enjoying traditional food or drinks. As soon as the clock strikes 12 at midnight, the world, particularly the countries which follow Western culture start greeting over phones or visiting friends personally. Fireworks and fire crackers display along with music is quite common on this occasion. Christians attend churches for prayer.    Exchange of gifts is common among friends. People mark January1 as the first day of the New Year to start afresh forgetting lapses and failures of the past year. English people on this occasion drink and toast with champagne or other kind of sparkling wine.
Role of our youths and our cultural emblem
Our youths should be motivated to the extent that they must not go crazy on 31st midnight celebrating English New Year's Day forgetting their own culture. Bangladesh has rich cultural heritage. Our Tagore and  Nazrul Sangeet, Bhatiali, Bhawaiya, songs of  Lalon Shah, Hason Raja, Shah Abdul Karim and others  are rich as cultural heritage. Our 9-month long Great War of Liberation and our great Victory culminating in our Independence under Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, introduced us to the world as a country that fought for the Mother language and also culture. Under any circumstances, our youths must not forget it. In Bangladesh January 1, is not a Public Holiday as in many countries around the world including in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Schools, post offices and government offices are closed, as are most businesses, in countries where New Year's Day is a public holiday. Bangladesh does not observe the day as a public holiday. And no function or any kind of musical program is held nationally. Youths of the country organize programs with cultural program using various kinds of pop and other kind of Western music.  Musical Bands may use Bengali folk songs in Western style. One should note that not all cultures follow the Gregorian calendar in observing New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
New Year's Day on January 1, marks the start of a new year according to the Gregorian calendar. It is a relatively modern practice. Although Romans began marking the start of their civil year on January 1 in their calendar (prior to the Gregorian calendar), the traditional springtime opening of the growing season and time for major military campaigns still held on as the popular New Year celebration
 Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. It was adopted immediately in some areas of Europe but a number of countries did not follow Gregorian calendar for a long time for reasons unknown. It took centuries to follow the Gregorian calendar. The United Kingdom and the United States started observing the Gregorian calendar in 1752, in which 11 days were dropped. However, things were restored afterwards. And since then the Gregorian calendar is part of everyday business and life.  
The widespread official adoption of the Gregorian calendar and marking January 1 as the beginning of a new year is almost global now. Despite celebrating January 1 as the New Year's Day, many countries have their own New Year's Day and they follow or celebrate this day gorgeously highlighting their own culture. In fact, they have also their own cultural and religious practices. Arab worlds, Israel, China, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries continue to celebrate New Year on different dates.
According to history, 'In pre-Christian Rome under the Julian calendar, the day was dedicated to Janus, god of gateways and beginnings, for whom January is also named. As a date in the Gregorian calendar of Christendom, New Year's Day liturgically marked the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus, which is still observed as such in the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church'.
In Christendom, under which the Gregorian Calendar developed, New Year's Day traditionally marks the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, which is still observed as such by the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church.
Mesopotamia (Iraq) instituted the concept of celebrating the New Year in 2000 BC and celebrated New Year around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the New Year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months. (Septum is Latin for "seven"; octo, "eight"; novem, "nine"; and decem, "ten".) Roman legend usually credited their second king Numa with the establishment of the months of January and February. These were first placed at the end of the year, but at some point came to be considered the first two months instead.
The January Calendar ( Kalends  Latin: Kalendae Januariae) came to be celebrated as the new year at some point after it became the day for the inaugurating new consuls in 153 BC. Romans had long dated their years by these consulships, rather than sequentially, and making the kalends of January start the new year aligned this dating. Still, private and religious celebrations around the March new year continued for some time and there is no consensus on the question of the timing for January 1's new status. Once it became the New Year, however, it became a time for family gatherings and celebrations.
In AD 567, the Council of Tours formally abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on December 25 in honor of the birth of Jesus; March 1 in the old Roman style; March 25 in honor of Lady Day and the Feast of the Annunciation; and on the movable feast of Easter. These days were also astronomically and astrologically significant since, at the time of the Julian reform, March 25 had been understood as the spring equinox and December 25 as the winter solstice. (The Julian calendar's small disagreement with the solar year, however, shifted these days earlier before the Council of Nicaea which formed the basis of the calculations used during the Gregorian reform of the calendar.) Medieval calendars nonetheless often continued to display the months running from January to December, despite their readers reckoning the transition from one year to the next on a different day.
Among the 7th century pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands, it was the custom to exchange gifts on the first day of the new year. This custom was deplored by Saint Eligius (died 659 or 660), who warned the Flemish and Dutch: "(Do not) make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare Puck] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom]."[9] However, on the date that European Christians celebrated the New Year, they exchanged Christmas presents because New Year's Day fell within the twelve days of the Christmas season in the Western Christian liturgical calendar;[10] the custom of exchanging Christmas gifts in a Christian context is traced back to the Biblical Magi who gave gifts to the Child Jesus.
Because of the leap year error in the Julian calendar, the date of Easter had drifted backward since the First Council of Nicaea decided the computation of the date of Easter in 325. By the sixteenth century, the drift from the observed equinox had become unacceptable. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII declared the Gregorian calendar widely used today, correcting the error by a deletion of 10 days. The Gregorian calendar reform also (in effect) restored January 1 as New Year's Day. Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire  - and its American colonies  - still celebrated the new year on 25 March.
Most nations of Western Europe officially adopted 1 January as New Year's Day somewhat before they adopted the Gregorian Calendar. In Tudor England, New Year's Day, along with Christmas Day and Twelfth Night, was celebrated as one of three main festivities among the twelve days of Christmastide.[13] There, until the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, the first day of the new year was the Western Christian Feast of the Annunciation, on 25 March, also called "Lady Day". Dates predicated on the year beginning on 25 March became known as Annunciation Style dates, while dates of the Gregorian Calendar commencing on 1 January were distinguished as Circumcision Style dates,[14] because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, the observed memorial of the eighth day of Jesus Christ's life after his birth, counted from the latter's observation on Christmas, 25 December. Pope Gregory acknowledged 1 January as the beginning of the New Year according to his reform of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar.
Rohingya : The gravest crisis of humanity    
The year 2018 looked very bleak and darkest period for Bangladesh as she   faced the gravest crisis in 2018 when she experienced the heavy influx of the Rohingyas from Myanmar. It was most unexpected and un-thought of as in August 2017, violence erupted in Rakhine State in Myanmar, targeting the Rohingya people, reportedly a stateless Muslim community. More than half a million people fled to Bangladesh, triggering one of the fastest growing humanitarian crises in the world. An estimated 693,000 Rohingya have been driven into Bangladesh (as of April 2018). Over half of them are children. By October, 2018, the influx was almost doubled. It was the greatest crisis Bangladesh ever faced.  The worst affected was old, women and children. The problem of children was the severest. They faced cholera and diarrhea and many other diseases. Tens of thousands men, women and children suffered badly from malnutrition.
These unfortunate Rohingyas faced death when Myanmar army fired upon the innocent Rohingyas at night and killed millions of them. It was the worst Genocide that the world ever seen or experienced. It can only be compared to the genocide of the then East Pakistanis now Bangladesh by the Pakistani army junta. The crisis continues till this day but Bangladesh has faced the crisis boldly. The Government and the people of Bangladesh left no stone unturned proving security, succor and strength to the poor Rohingyas overcoming the crisis. Almost one and half a year already elapsed, the crisis continues unabated with a far devastating manner. The world came forward excepting China and Russia and few other countries, with whatever help they could provide them with. UNICEF, UNHRR have been making an all out effort to help Rohingyas survive crisis.
World Recognition
Special distinction award to Sheikh Hasina  for outstanding leadership
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been conferred with the prestigious 'International Achievement Award' and the '2018 Special Distinction Award for Outstanding Leadership' for her humanitarian and responsible policy in hosting the Rohingyas.
Inter Press Service (IPS), a global news agency, conferred the 'International Achievement Award' on her, while the Global Hope Coalition, a network of three not-for-profit foundations based in New York, Zurich and Hong Kong, honoured the prime minister with the '2018 Special Distinction Award for Outstanding Leadership'.The Prime Minister received the awards at two separate functions recently.She received the 'International Achievement Award' from Director General of International Organization for Migration Ambassador William Lucy Swing at the Conference Room  of the UN Headquarters.
Sheikh Hasina received the '2018 Special Distinction Award for Outstanding Leadership' from Irina Bokova, Honorary President of Global Hope Coalition, at the annual awards of the organisation. Receiving the awards, the Prime Minister said: "I dedicate this award to the people of my country who have opened their hearts and houses to shelter 1.1 million traumatised forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.
Bangladesh government launches Mother of Humanity Social Work Award 2018
The 'Mother of Humanity Social Work Award Policy, 2018' was approved at a Cabinet meeting led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Secretariat  held  in the month of November this year."The term Mother of Humanity refers to the Prime Minister," the Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told the media  on November 19, 2018.
The humanitarian activities of the Government of Bangladesh caught the attention of the world and the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government were greatly lauded for their humanitarian services to the Rohingya people., 2018. This award would be given to those who would make outstanding contribution to the saving of human life every year.  
General Election in 2018  
The most important event of Bangladesh in 2018 was the General Election which had taken place on December 30, 2018. All the major parties participated in the election including Awami League,Bangladesh National Party ( BNP) and  Jatiyo Party of Ershad.  People were assured of    a fair and violence-free, peaceful election. The total number of seats in the Jatiyo Sangsad was 350. Of these 50 seats were reserved for women.
The Padma Bridge
The construction of the Padma Bridge is another achievement of Bangladesh in 2018 despite withdrawal of support by the World Bank. 50% work is reported to have been finished so far.
It  is a multipurpose road-rail bridge across the Padma River under construction in Bangladesh. It will connect Louhajong, Munshiganj to Shariatpur and Madaripur, linking the south-west of the country, to northern and eastern regions. Padma Bridge is the most challenging construction project in the history of Bangladesh. The two-level steel truss bridge will carry a four-lane highway on the upper level and a single track railway on a lower level. With 150 m span, 6150 m total length and 18.10 m width it is going to be the largest bridge in the Padma-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basins of the country in terms of both span and the total length.
The bridge has provisions for rail, gas, electric line and fibre optic cable for future expansion. The Bangladesh Bridge Authority is the executing agency of the project.
The project is now being funded from own resources of the Government of Bangladesh.
Power  generation
The Government of Bangladesh has taken initiative to solve power generation problem in the country. All the Upozilas of Bangladesh are expected to get the benefit of power generation.
Electricity Production in Bangladesh increased to 5812 Gigawatt-hour in June from 5479 Gigawatt-hour in May of 2018. Electricity Production in Bangladesh averaged 4071.60 Gigawatt-hour from 2013 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 5812 Gigawatt-hour in June of 2018.
Digital Bangladesh
The Government is trying to bring the whole of Bangladesh under digital management. At least 50000 students are expected to receive ICT benefit by 2018.  The project includes setting up ICT lab in different parts of the country.  
Sports: Record success of Bangladesh in Test Cricket
Bangladesh recorded their first innings victory in Test cricket as they hammered Windies inside three days in Dhaka to sweep the two-match series 2-0.
The Tigers' innings-and-184-run success came after they skittled the Caribbean side for 111 in their first innings and then 213 in their second.
Major Failures
The year 2018 although had many achievements for Bangladesh, there had been few failures also.
Traffic or road accidents surpassed all record   
According to News Paper reports at least 3000 or more  people were killed on roads this year. There had been several processions protesting the killing of the innocent people. Students and members of the civil societies organized meetings and demanded exemplary punishment of drivers for wreck less driving by the drivers. Most of the accidents took place due to carelessness and whimsical attitude of the drivers of heavy vehicles including buses and trucks.
Digital Security Act
The Government passed the Digital Act despite protests by the journalists of the News papers in 2018. The Journalists considered it as a black law and urged the government for dropping of it.
Leaking of question papers
The leaking of question papers of public examinations and recruitment tests has been one of the most talked about issues during 2018. Questions of Junior School Certificate (JSC), Secondary School Certificate (SSC), and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinations were available before the examinations. A number of government recruitment tests were also cancelled due to allegations of question leak. This has marred the good name of the education sector in Bangladesh.  The Government however took serous actions against those who were allegedly involved in the leaking of question paper.
(The writer presently is the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Northern University Bangladesh and formerly a Visiting Scholar, Divinity School (1985), Harvard University, USA.                                     E-mail: dranwar.karim@gmail/yahoo.com)

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