Happy New Year Blog!

Photo.cropped

 

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. 

 

Happy New Year, Siberia

By Karen Wills
My husband and I spent four years teaching Inupiaq Eskimo children in Wales, Alaska. Wales is a subsistence village of 150 people located on the tip of the Seward Peninsula. On a clear day, we could see Russia, some 56 miles away, specifically the low, somber mountains of Siberia where the infamous gulags once threatened political dissidents and others.
In between us lay the Diomedes, Little Diomede owned by the United States and home to Inupiaq relatives of those living in Wales. A couple miles from it lies Big Diomede which houses a Russian military base. Our villagers used to have relatives in Big Diomede, too, but they were relocated to Siberia when the base was established. Now there is no communication between these native families of our two nations.
I’m amazed that any human beings survived the brutality of those prison labor camps. The weather alone could kill you. I viewed the forbidding lands across the Bering Strait and wondered about those living there now, dealing with a climate that’s both politically and meteorologically oppressive. We could do nothing for them, but every New Years Eve, we all went to a high point at the end of the village and set off spectacular fireworks. We hoped that distant relatives in Siberia could see them. I felt the difference between us those nights. A little of the Fourth of July entered my heart. Our freedoms should be celebrated at home and communicated to places where human rights are still a distant dream, seen from afar.

Happy New Year Fireworks