Why Does the Year Start on January 1?
Every year. The earth orbits around the sun and we celebrate each revolution on new year's day. But what's so special about this particular spot in our orbit. Why do we use january first as the start of our year as opposed to some other day as we go back in history. Most human civilizations did not use a solar calendar they used. Lunar calendar's in fact if you look at the traditional calendars for countries such as china vietnam or for religion such as judaism and islam. They have lunar calendars and their new year's day changes it state every year. Our current calendar can be traced back to ancient rome. The very early romans way back at the founding of the city used to have ten months and that ten months system is still reflected in many of the names of our months today. Their first month was marcus named after the god mars which we call march after march came the months of april ass- maya's and junius the months after this. We're just named after their number until he has sex tellus september october november and december so yeah december are twelve months really means the ten months in latin likewise with november october and september however. Ten months didn't really fit nicely into a year. They had two full months worth of leftover dates. That didn't really fit into any month to rectify this around the year. Seven hundred pc. The roman king numa added two more months to the counter. I annual areas named after the roman god janus and february's which was now the last and shortest month of the year for romans. The beginning of each month was called the callan's so the start of the year was the callans of march or mark. I then at some point and no one is quite sure. When the year began being counted on the calendar of i warious january went from being the eleventh month to being the first month. This might have had something to do with the start of terms for consoles. Romans named their years after the two consuls and power instead of numbering them so for example the year fifty nine bc. Julius caesar wisconsin with kelp. Biblis it was known as the year of caesar bibi however was weak so there was a running joke that it was the year of julius. Caesar it might also had something to do with the fact that january i was the callans closest to the winter solstice. Caesar is actually really important to this story. While the names of the months were very similar to the months we have today. The keller itself was still a mess. Caesar instituted changes to fix this problem. Anti adopted the suggestions of a greek astronomer named side of alexandria suggested going to a tropical year more on that in a bit and created the three hundred sixty five day year with a leap year every fourth year. So that's pretty much. The story right. The roman set january is the first day of the year julius. Caesar sets the julian calender. And we get to where we are today. Nope because in the middle ages the system fell apart completely at the five sixty seven council of tours and there were a whole bunch of different councils of tours so you have to specify. The church declared that january. I was not to be celebrated as the new year as it was a pagan tradition. What replace january first. Well nothing there were. A whole bunch of different days celebrated oliver europe for centuries. Some places used christmas. Which was the winter solstice on. The julian calendar some use the floating date of easter someone back to the old roman march first. And some if you remember back to the episode on why. Christmas is on december twenty fifth us. The important date of march twenty-fifth start of the new year eventually. For a whole host of reasons pope gregory the thirteenth the problems with the julian calender and use the opportunity to standardize the new year back to being january first for good measure. They also made january first holiday which it still is. Today originally january. I was the feast of the circumcision of jesus. But now it's just called the solemnity of mary. Of course not. Everyone was on board with the new calendar. Catholic countries were quick to adopt it but protestant and orthodox countries were not in particular. One country was very late to adopt january first as the beginning of the new year. That country was england. England celebrated their new year on march twenty fifth. In fact their colonies in the americas. Did this as well up until seventeen. Fifty two in seventeen. Fifty england passed what was known as the calendar new style. Act also known as chesterfield's act which is when they adopted the gregorian calendar. The very first thing mentioned in the act was the problem with using march twenty fifth as the new year when everyone else in europe used january first including scotland so when england finally adopted january first as the start of the new year. So did the american colonies for the first time today. Most countries now use the gregorian calendar even if it's only for business purposes to stay instinct with the rest of the world new year celebration such as ted in vietnam chinese new year or rosh hashanah are still traditional festivities held on different days all over the world. The fact remains that there's nothing astronomically significant about january first even though it celebrating an astronomical event aka revolution around the sun so if we were starting new calendar from scratch. What would we pick before. I mentioned that sausage unease of alexandria suggested we celebrate a tropical year and pick that word carefully as opposed to a solar year because there are two types of solar years and they're very similar a tropical year is the time from one season to the next based on win the solstices occur. The current years based on the gregorian calendar are tropical years. However there's also a thing known as ideal year which is when we measure the position of earth based on the location of stars the difference between a ideal year and a tropical year is very small. He said you real year is only twenty minutes longer. This can add up. However the difference between the julian calendar and the gregorian calendar is only eleven minutes per year and that caused a lot of problems over the centuries this has to do with the procession of the orbit that is constantly changing their to logical places to define a new year based on astronomic principles. The i would be one of the solstices. This is something that humans have pictured for thousands of years and have recognized its importance. The winter solstice also is in too far away from january. First the solstice really has more to do with the tilt of the earth however and not the orbit of earth there is something significant about the orbited the earth. That is a point. We could use and oddly enough. It's really close to january. First even though the ancients had no clue the orbit of the earth around the sun is close to circular but it isn't perfectly circular it's a slight ellipse hence there is a point where the earth is closest to the sun. And it's called the para helium perihelion in the year. Twenty twenty one takes place on january second the date of para helium drifts. Over time in the year twelve forty-six para helium actually took place on the same date as the salsas in the year. Six thousand four hundred and thirty it will take place. On the spring equinox so january first is the start of our year which marks astronomical event even though the data itself has no astronomical significance set by the romans abandoned by the church only to be later adopted once again by the church so as the romans did celebrate the callans of january which honors janice the roman god with two faces one which looks into the past at the old year and one which looks into the future at the new