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Tony Grist

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January [Jan. 1st, 2019|09:46 am]
Tony Grist
How come January 1st got fixed upon as New Year's Day? It's not as though it coincides with any significant astronomical marker- like a solstice- or commemorates an important historical event. I asked Wikipedia for clarification. Wikipedia didn't know. It mumbled something about it having been the day the Romans elected their magistrates. And why did the Romans elect their magistrates on January 1? Ahem. Well, they just did.

New Years Day has been celebrated on various different dates in various different places- and still is. Our current local calendar- named for Pope Gregory the thingummywhatsit- wasn't adopted until the 17th century. Slippery customer, Time; all our attempts to peg it down are a bit make do and mend. Leap years for instance- they're not an elegant solution. But then neither were the intercalary months of the old Julian calendar.

January is under the tutelage of Janus- the Roman God of doorways and beginnings and endings and all that sort of thing. He has two faces- one looking back and one looking forward, which means he has all round vision- as a God should. Perhaps the association of the month with this particular god is why it got shuffled to the start of the year. But, then again, perhaps not. According to something I read, again in Wikipedia, the month's original patron was Juno- the Great Mother. The more you trowel about in the dust the more you find that almost everything about the human past is contentious. I mean, if we can't be sure who killed Kennedy how can we possibly know what was going on in the minds of a bunch of Romans three thousand years ago? Actually, perhaps they weren't in agreement. Perhaps some of them thought January was all about Juno and some thought it was all about Janus- and some just weren't sure.
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Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2019-01-01 11:24 am (UTC)

January

Measurement of time: in dispute years ago and somewhat arbitrary. Why should one set of rulers decide things for all time? The people who seize power seem to me to be almost always corrupt or corruptible. Why listen to them?
Night and day, the seasons, cold, heat, rain and snow, dust and wind seem more effectively arbiters of how we organise our time.
Jenny x
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2019-01-01 12:39 pm (UTC)

Re: January

The French revolutionaries attempted a complete revision of the calendar- which included the creation of 12 "new" months, each containing 30 days and named for its prevailing weather conditions. Under this system the period we're in now- running from late December to late January- is Nivoise (or month of snows). It was very pretty- but Napoleon scotched it after he became Emperor.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2019-01-01 11:34 am (UTC)
As I was reading this, I was thinking that New Year used to be celebrated in March so I did a little Googling as well and found this:

"Although most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately, it was only gradually adopted among Protestant countries. The British, for example, did not adopt the reformed calendar until 1752. Until then, the British Empire – and its American colonies – still celebrated the new year on 25 March."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2019-01-01 11:41 am (UTC)
It leads to some complications with the dating of historical events.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2019-01-01 11:49 am (UTC)
I remember seeing a tombstone in (I believe) Winchester Cathedral where, because of the change in the calendar, a man was buried 10 days before he died. The vicar pointed it out to me and said "Can you figure out why this is not a mistake?" Fortunately, I knew about the switch to Gregorian.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2019-01-01 12:48 pm (UTC)
I expect there was much hilarity at the time of the switchover.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2019-01-01 12:02 pm (UTC)
Interestingly, the tax year still runs from 6 April, which is within a week or so of that old new year. I wonder if the two are related?

The Celtic new year was supposed to start on or near the beginning of November. Other cultures celebrate different dates.

January the first doesn't make much sense, unless it's a solstice celebration that's slipped by a week or so over the millennia due to loss of the original connection and changes in the calendar?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2019-01-01 12:46 pm (UTC)
You're right about the tax year. April 6 under the Gregorian system corresponds to March 25 under the Julian system. And March 25 is Lady Day- which used to be New Year's Day.
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