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January: New Beginnings

60 second histories
by: Squaducation date: 06 Jan

January is a time of new beginnings and starts. It is perhaps worth remembering why the month is so called. All the months of our calendar come from Roman times before Christ.  January itself is named after Janus the God of beginnings and transitions. He is a two-headed God looking back to the past and ahead to the future. January and February were the last 2 months added around 713BC as before that the Romans considered winter a month‐less period. Thus at first the calendar had ten months ending with December (Decem for 10th). February, possibly named after the Italian God Februus, is the time for purification, which was celebrated during this month.

March is named after the God Mars, April comes from the word Aperire which means to open or bloom, May after Maiesta, the Goddess of honour and reverence and June in honour of the Queen of the Gods, Juno. It is possible that May and June are dedicated to the Maiores (The grown men or majors) and the Iuniores (the juveniles or young men). July is named in honour of Julius Casesar who was born in this month. It used to be called Quintilis as it was the fifth month. August was called Sextilis but was later named in honour of Caesar Augustus.  The last four months are all called after the number of the month they were; Septem, Octem, Novem and Decem.

The calendar was changed form the Gregorian calendar to the Julian calendar in the Uk in1752 to get the calendar back in tune with astronomical reality. The Gregorian calendar did not reflect the actual time it takes for the Earth to circle once around the Sun – a solar year – and thus we lost 11 days. People went to bed on Wednesday 2nd September and woke up on Thursday 14th. It is said that there were riots in villages by people demanding their eleven days back. Much of this seems to be mythical however and is based on this picture by Hogarth of c1755.

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