Happy New Year? Are you sure?

I hope it will be happy, but is it New Year at all? Why do we celebrate it on 1st January? I had to find out more than I already knew, which wasn’t much. 

Basically, the length of a year according to the Julian Calendar was too long, and after thirteen centuries of use, the actual vernal equinox had slipped to 10th March, so Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomer, the Jesuit priest Christopher Clavius, devised the more accurate Gregorian Calendar. This involved Gregory decreeing that the day after Thursday, 4th October 1582 would be not Friday, 5th October, but Friday, 15th October 1582. According to Wikipedia,

The switchover was bitterly opposed by much of the populace, who feared it was an attempt by landlords to cheat them out of a week and a half’s rent.

Fearing a Papist plot, it took Britain and the colonies about 170 years to ditch the Julian for the Gregorian, which happened in 1752, by which time, they were eleven days out of synch. Wednesday, 2nd September 1752 was immediately followed by Thursday, 14th September 1752. 

The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 (c.23) (also known as Chesterfield’s Act after Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield) is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. It reformed the calendar of England and British Dominions so that a new year began on 1 January rather than 25 March (Lady Day) and would run according to the Gregorian calendar, as used in most of western Europe.

Although the calendar in Scotland also changed in 1752, we had already changed the date of New Year to 1st January in 1600. I expect this was so my ancestors could celebrate New Year twice. Nowadays, the supermarkets encourage us also to celebrate Chinese New Year, so perhaps the Scots were 400 years ahead of their time in celebrating more than one New Year! Not that I’m suggesting that everyone would have also celebrated in March, but I’m sure the temptation must have been there.

However, 25th March as New Year’s Day only dates from the 12th Century. The Roman year began on 1st January even before the introduction of the Julian Calendar in 45BC. 1st January was dedicated to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions and also of gates, doorways and so on.

I find it bizarre that so many Christians (and many others, including ‘atheists’) celebrate the day which was consecrated to a Roman god and was resuscitated by a Pope – one who aided and abetted Catholics to subvert Protestant rule in Britain and Ireland.

The calendar attributed to Romulus, the founder of Rome around 753 BC,  contained ten months with the vernal equinox in the first month, March, and the days between the end of December and the beginning of March not assigned to any month. Numa Pompilius, the second of the seven traditional kings of Rome, added January and February about forty years later.

The first day of the consular term, effectively the first day of the year, changed several times during Roman history, but finally changed from 15th March to 1st January in 153 BC.

Many cultures celebrate their New Year in the springtime, which seems to make more sense as the land becomes renewed, whereas it is still one dark, cold, damp day after another for weeks after 1st January (in the Northern Hemisphere). How is the year “new” exactly?

Exodus 12:2 describes the month of Abib (in the Spring) thus:

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

And while I’m on scripture, Genesis 1:5 says that “the evening and the morning were the first day.”

So midnight isn’t even the beginning or end of a day, let alone a year.

To summarise: the year 2012 (supposedly AD, in the year of our Lord) began in the middle of the night, in the middle of Winter, to honour the Roman god, Janus.

The only comfort is that all of this should drive ‘atheists’ scatty.

So, Happy New Year, whenever it is.

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