Let’s cel­e­brate New Year ... but just when, ex­actly?

Midweek Visiter - - Rotary Round-up -

IN MOST of the Western world, Jan­uary 1 marks the begin­ning of the New Year. But have you ever won­dered why that is so?

The Chi­nese New Year in 2019, for ex­am­ple, will be the Year of the Pig and will be cel­e­brated on Feb­ru­ary 5.

In­deed, the Chi­nese New Year is not cel­e­brated on the same date each year.

The first day of Chi­nese New Year be­gins on the new moon that ap­pears be­tween Jan­uary 21 and Feb­ru­ary 20.

So, why is the UK New Year on Jan­uary 1 each year?

The an­swer be­gins, like so many ma­jor events in our his­tory, with the Ro­mans.

Soon af­ter be­com­ing Ro­man Em­peror, Julius Cae­sar de­cided that the tra­di­tional Ro­man cal­en­dar was in dire need of re­form.

In­tro­duced around the sev­enth cen­tury BC, the Ro­man cal­en­dar at­tempted to fol­low the lu­nar cy­cle but fre­quently fell out of phase with the sea­sons and had to be cor­rected.

In ad­di­tion, the pon­tif­ices, the Ro­man body charged with over­see­ing the cal­en­dar, of­ten abused its au­thor­ity by ad­ding days to ex­tend po­lit­i­cal terms or in­ter­fere with elec­tions.

In de­sign­ing his new cal­en­dar, Cae­sar en­listed the aid of Sosi­genes, an Alexan­drian astronomer, who ad­vised him to do away with the lu­nar cy­cle en­tirely and fol­low the so­lar year, as did the Egyp­tians.

The year was cal­cu­lated to be 365¼ and days, and Cae­sar added 67 days to 45 BC, mak­ing 46 BC be­gin on Jan­uary 1, rather than in March.

He also de­creed that every four years a day be added to Feb­ru­ary, thus the­o­ret­i­cally keep­ing his cal­en­dar from fall­ing out of step.

So, in 45 BC, New Year’s Day was cel­e­brated on Jan­uary 1 for the first time in his­tory as the Ju­lian cal­en­dar took ef­fect.

Shortly be­fore his as­sas­si­na­tion in 44BC, Julius Cae­sar changed the name of the month Quin­tilis to Julius (July) af­ter him­self.

Later, Sex­tilis was re­named Au­gus­tus (Au­gust) af­ter his suc­ces­sor.

Cel­e­bra­tion of New Year’s Day in Jan­uary fell out of favour dur­ing the Mid­dle Ages, and even those who tried to ad­here to the Ju­lian cal­en­dar did not ob­serve the New Year ex­actly on Jan­uary 1.

The rea­son for the lat­ter was that Cae­sar and Sosi­genes failed to cal­cu­late the cor­rect value for the so­lar year as 365.242199 days, not 365.25 days.

Thus, an 11-minute-a-year er­ror added seven days by the year 1000, and 10 days by the mid-15th cen­tury, mak­ing a com­plete mess of the cal­en­dar.

The Ro­man church be­came aware of this prob­lem, and in the 1570s Pope Gre­gory XIII com­mis­sioned Je­suit astronomer Christo­pher Clav­ius to come up with a new cal­en­dar.

In 1582, the Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar was im­ple­mented, omit­ting 10 days for that year and es­tab­lish­ing the new rule that only one of every four cen­ten­nial years should be a leap year.

Since then, peo­ple around the world have gath­ered to­gether on Jan­uary 1 to cel­e­brate the ar­rival of the New Year.

Age Con­cern Liver­pool & Sefton would like to wish all of our read­ers a very Happy New Year.

We cel­e­brate New Year on Jan 1 – but why?

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