By M. F. Erler
Happy New Year. Of course, this only applies if you are on the Gregorian (more commonly known as the Christian) Calendar. Most of the western world is. However, not everyone celebrates the new year on what we call January 1. Before the Sixteenth Century, most of Europe was following the Julian Calendar, started originally by Julius Caesar, the first Roman emperor. In the Julian Calendar, March was the first month of the year. Which explains why September, October, November, and December literally mean 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th month, respectively. (By the way, the reason July and August both have 31 days is that Caesar Augustus, successor of Julius Caesar wanted his month to have as many days as his predecessor’s. Couldn’t let him look more important, after all.)
When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in the 1500s, January became the first month. Therefore September (septem=7 in Latin) became the 9th month instead of the 7th. And so on. The reason for this was the Julian Calendar’s year was not 365 days long, so there was need for a leap month every so many years. And you thought Leap Year was complicated!
Here’s some more calendar trivia. The New Year of the Church Calendar actually begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the First Sunday in the Ecclesiastical season of Advent. In a sense, our commercial new year coincides with the opening of school in August or September. School used to start the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September, but that has fallen by the wayside in many places.
And then, of course there’s the Lunar Calendars, whose dates vary from our solar calendar from year to year. Chinese New Year usually falls sometime in February, on 2/5 in 2019. Then Hindus, Arabs and others also have their own calendars. The Jewish calendar has two new year’s, similar to some Christian churches. The Sacred Jewish New Year falls around Passover in the Spring. While the Secular New Year is in the Fall.
Okay, now that I’ve further complicated your life, let me just wish you a peaceful and hopeful new year. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, though it may be a pipe dream.