It may appear obvious to many in modern times that January 1 marks the start of a new year. But how about January 14, February 5, April 13, August 30, September 29, and March 7? These dates may appear to have nothing in common, but each one marks the beginning of a new year somewhere around the world.
Julius Caesar, an ancient Roman emperor, created his own calendar, the Julian Calendar, which placed the New Year on January 1.
During the Middle Ages, the date of the New Year varied according to region and religious practice. In some areas, it was celebrated on March 25, Lady Day, which memorializes the Virgin Mary. Elsewhere in Europe, the New Year was on December 25 as a joint holiday with Christmas. Easter was another common New Year date.
The New Gregorian Calendar
Today, many countries, including the U.S., use the Gregorian calendar.
Caesar’s calendar, which had been used throughout the Roman empire, included a minor error. The Gregorian calendar corrected the issue in 1582, and January 1 was again named the beginning of the New Year, chosen to coincide with the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. It should be no surprise that the Gregorian calendar marks the beginning of our age at the birth of Jesus Christ, since it was developed by the Catholic Church.
The Gregorian calendar was quickly adopted by Catholic countries across Europe but strongly resisted in Protestant countries, where people were suspicious that it was a takeover plot by the Catholic Church. Britain didn’t agree to use the Gregorian calendar until 200 years later, in 1750. The Calendar (New Style) Act introduced the Gregorian calendar to the British Empire. By that time the Julian calendar had drifted by 11 days, so it was announced that Wednesday, Sept. 2, would be followed directly by Thursday, Sept. 14, 1752.
Political intrigue, culture, and spiritual beliefs have as much influence as the natural cycle of the Earth on the marking of time. The French revolutionaries invented their own calendar in the 1700s mark the beginning of the Republican Age, although it was later abandoned. Russia finally adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918, following the Soviet Revolution. Orthodox churches still use the Julian calendar – which is now 13 days removed from the Gregorian calendar. Other societies across the world continue to observe their own systems, if only for the sake of tradition.
So, here’s wishing a Happy New Year to all – but keep in mind that a new stage in life can begin at any time you choose, not just on January 1.