A History of the New Year
A move from March to January
by Borgna Brunner
Julius Caesar and the Gregorain Calendar
New Year's Features
New Year's Traditions
Rosh Hashannah, Jewish New Year
Chinese New Year
Muharram, Islamic New Year
Saying "Happy New Year!" Around the World
The Curious History of the Gregorian Calendar
Leap Year Explained
The Ides of March
A Tale of Two Easters
April Fools' Day Explained
How August Became So August
Names of the Months
Names of the Days of the Week
Calendars and Holidays
History of the Calendar
The Infoplease Perpetual Calendar
The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
Early Roman Calendar: March 1st Rings in the New Year
The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for "seven," octo is "eight," novem is "nine," and decem is "ten."
January Joins the Calendar
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman consuls—the highest officials in the Roman republic—began their one-year tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1.
Julian Calendar: January 1st Officially Instituted as the New Year
In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1, and within the Roman world, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year.
Middle Ages: January 1st Abolished
In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and unchristian like, and in 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter.
Gregorian Calendar: January 1st Restored
In 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year's day. 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 their American colonies— still celebrated the new year in March.
For more New Year's features see New Year's Traditions and Saying "Happy New Year!" Around the World.
Read more: A History of the New Year | Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/spot/newyearhistory.html#ixzz2m3ZHpGPN
Origin of the Names of the Months
January: Janus, Roman god of doors, beginnings, sunset and sunrise, had one face looking forward and one backward,
February: On February 15 the Romans celebrated the festival of forgiveness for sins; (februare, Latin to purify),
March: Mars, the Roman god of war,
April: Roman month Aprilis, perhaps derived from aperire, (Latin to open, as in opening buds and blossoms) or perhaps from Aphrodite, original Greek name of Venus,
May: Maia, Roman goddess, mother of Mercury by Jupiter and daughter of Atlas,
June: Juno, chief Roman goddess,
July: Renamed for Julius Caesar in 44 BC, who was born this month; Quintilis, Latin for fifth month, was the former name (the Roman year began in March rather than January),
August: Formerly Sextilis (sixth month in the Roman calendar); re-named in 8 BC for Augustus Caesar,
September: September, (septem, Latin for 7) the seventh month in the Julian or Roman calendar, established in the reign of Julius Caesar,
October: Eighth month (octo, Latin for 8) in the Julian (Roman) calendar. The Gregorian calendar instituted by Pope Gregory XIII established January as the first month of the year,
November: Ninth Roman month (novem, Latin for 9). Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, skipping 10 days that October, correcting for too many leap years,
December: Julian (Roman) year's tenth month (decem, Latin for 10).