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“Remember, the size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, how you handle disappointment along the way, and may 2022 be your best year yet, Happy New Year“– Paul Ebeling
In the dark days of Winter, a new year begins. But January was not always the start of the New Year. At the dawn of modern calendar-keeping, the Winter months went unnamed in the calendars that gave rise to today’s most popular system of marking time.
Named after Janus, the God of Time, transitions, and beginnings, January was an invention of the ancient Romans.
Here is the story of the month: a tale of astronomical miscalculation, political tweaking, and calendar confusion.
Humans have been marking time on calendars for at least 10,000 yrs, but the methods they used varied from the start.
The Mesolithic people of Britain tracked the phases of the Moon. Ancient Egyptians looked to the Sun. And the Chinese combined both methods into a lunisolar calendar that they still use today.
The modern calendar used in most of the world evolved during the Roman Republic. Though it was attributed to Romulus, the polity’s founder and 1st King, it is likely the calendar developed from other dating systems designed by the Babylonians, Etruscans, and ancient Greeks.
As Romans’ scientific knowledge and social structures changed over time, so did their calendar. The Romans adjusted their official calendar several times from the republic’s founding in 509 BC until its dissolution in 27 BC.
In 45 BC, Julius Caesar demanded a reformed version that became known as the Julian calendar. It was designed by Sosigenes of Alexandria, an astronomer and mathematician who proposed a 365-day calendar with a leap year every 4 yrs. Though he had overestimated the length of the year by about 11 minutes, the calendar was now in sync with the Sun.
But, Christians celebrated the new year on various feast days. The Julian calendar remained largely the same until Y 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII adjusted the calendar to more accurately reflect the amount of time it takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun. The new calendar shifted the dates, which had drifted by about two weeks, back in sync with seasonal shifts.
Only with Gregory’s 1582 reform did 1 January stick as the beginning of the new year for many. Not everyone switched to the new Gregorian calendar, and as a result Christmas falls in January for members of Eastern Orthodox churches.
While the modern world mainly syncs to the Gregorian calendar, other calendars have lived too. As a result, different cultures acknowledge different dates as the start of the new year and have festivals, rituals and holidays, like Nowruz, Rosh Hashanah, and Chinese New Year to celebrate.
Have a healthy, prosperous Happy New Year, Keep the Faith!