Each of the ancient civilizations had developed a method that served them to analyze the influences on earth events. They were mainly used for the development of agriculture, but they were not limited only to that aspect.
Of the ancient civilizations, Egypt is the one that we have more information available today. The Egyptians had developed calendars based on the Moon, the Sun and of the star Sirius (the Dog Star).
The solar calendar had 360 days, plus 5 days remaining for the celebration of the birth of the gods Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Haroeris. The Egyptian solar calendar was adopted by the Roman Empire in the time of Julius Caesar and was in use until its modification in 1582, with the Gregorian reform. Pope Gregory XIII determined that the year begins on January 1, and there are several versions of why that day was chosen.
Before the Gregorian reform, the New Year was celebrated with the beginning of Spring, coincidentally when the Sun enters the sign of Aries (identified in astrology with the head of the human body).
To cite a celebration that everyone knows as Easter, it is worth mentioning the direct relationship between the dates of Carnival, and the celebration of Easter.
The Jews began celebrating Passover in commemoration of their Exodus from Egypt. The Jewish calendar is lunar (with a month of 28 days). The Moon goes through 4 stages in this 28 days cycle, which are, full, first quarter, new, and third quarter, and then a new cycle begins.
The origin of the celebration of Easter is mention in the Book of Exodus (Bible – Old Testament), which is celebrated based on the phases of the moon. Easter falls on the first full moon after the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere (autumn in the southern hemisphere). Depending on when the full moon occurs, Easter can fall between March 22 and April 25. Based on this date, 40 days before, the Carnival festivities are celebrated.
Carnival was once the beginning of the winter farewell party (in the northern hemisphere), where all the food (especially meat-based) that had been stored for the winter had to be consumed. With the approach of spring and its consequent increase in temperature, the stored food would spoil (there was no refrigeration in those days).
Through time, these events were taking a religious character and the Catholic Church defines Lent, where the 40 days before Easter you should not eat meat. After the massive consumption of the meat that remained after the Carnival period, there was no stored meat left.
It is interesting to see how over time the transformation of a celebration of something practical, such as consuming food reserves before they spoil, took place into a celebration of a religious order, which over time became something totally different from its original meaning.
It is worth stopping and mention two things. The first one is that the beginning of the current civilization began in the northern hemisphere, (for what we know) and most of the dates of traditional celebrations; correspond to important events in the northern part of the planet in relation to the seasons, weather and the sky view from that earth location.
The beginning of spring (between March and April) based on the phase of the moon, the appearance of Sirius, December’s solstice with the beginning of winter, associated with the celebration of Saturnalia (Saturn), all these celebrations from times remote, changed their name and meaning to what we know them today.
The celebration of Saturnalia, which was mainly people out of control, and bordering savagery, was during our period of Christmas and coincides with the sun entering the sign of Capricorn, ruled by the planet Saturn.
The other consideration to keep in mind is that, we are talking about the West. We could even narrow it down to the area covered by the Roman Empire, which declared Christianity its official religion under the reign of Emperor Constantine, and later passed on to America. In the East, others are the customs, traditions and celebrations; to the point they use a different type of astrology.
These differences, which seems trivial, have a significant difference on life’s meaning and basic concepts, for example with the concept of reincarnation, which is consider in some parts of the West but not in the East.
Celebrations like Easter, Christmas, New Year and Carnival, just to mention the most popular, are not celebrated in the East. Although the New Year is something that has worldwide diffusion, almost everyone is already familiar with the Chinese New Year, based in the lunar calendar, as well as the Jewish, Muslim and the calendars that the original peoples of Centro and South America used.
For what we know in recorded history of the human civilization, the movements of the stars have determined the different parts into which we divide time, set calendars and carry out celebrations, some of which, today are quite far from their original meaning. Nevertheless, if something is clear, is that celestial bodies and seasons in the northern hemisphere were the main indicators for its definition.