Baby New Year and Father Time

Baby New Year and Father Time

Historical Symbols

12/31/2023 | Angela Whitlock, CSRA

Being a history museum, we focus on the passage of time very often. With the 75th Anniversary of our forest preserves this year, this is especially true. In light of this, and the fact that during this time of year, we all get to slow down and allow time for reflection, we wanted to share some interesting information about common New Year’s imagery and their historical significance.

Baby New Year and Father Time are common historical avatars or symbols associated with this time of year. But did you know that their origins lie in ancient Greece?!

Father Time can be traced back to its association with the Greek god of Time, Chronos. Both Chronos and Father Time are depicted as an old man with a wise expression that is usually bearded and wearing robes. Both typically carry a timepiece of some sort, such as an hourglass or clock, which reinforces the idea that time is passing.

Baby New Year has been a staple in holiday imagery since the beginning of the 20th century, when the Saturday Evening Post began publishing humorous illustrations of babies on the cover of their end-of-year editions. These covers inspired grownups to dress like infants on New Year’s Eve. But, like Father Time, the original Baby New Year is also associated with ancient Greece.

Baby New Year has roots in the Greek god Dionysus, the god of fertility, wine (intoxication), festivity, and revelry. Dionysus was commonly depicted as a baby that is born at the end of our modern calendar year. During the age of Plato and Socrates, it was customary for Greeks to usher in the New Year with celebrations honoring Dionysus. One of their traditions was placing an infant in a winnowing basket and hoisting the child skyward to represent the rebirth of Dionysus.

Baby New Year and Father Time are frequently shown together in holiday imagery. The meaning conveyed in this imagery symbolizes the passage of time throughout the year. Aging Father Time hands his clock over to Baby New Year on January 1st, a clock that Baby New Year must now carry with him throughout the year as he rapidly ages and becomes Father Time, thus repeating the cycle.

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District has seen the passage of 75 Father Times handing over his duties to Baby New Year!

The Museum of the Grand Prairie wishes you a safe, happy, and healthy New Year, and want to thank you for coming to visit our forest preserves for the past 75 Father Times.


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