Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Year's Day

The names of the months of the year are Latin in origin, which is logical since the calendar we use started in Rome. Following is my condensed version of the evolution of our calendars to explain some early BMD records and also the origin of New Year's Day.

The early Roman Calendar was based on the cycles of the moon. The year started with March 1st and had only 10 months. The last six months were named for Latin words for numbers - quinque (5), sex (6), septem (7), octo (8), novem (9) and decem (10).  That is why you will find that many old BMD records, including in Quebec, have dates with the month written as 7br, 8br, 9br and 10br. January and February were added later as 11th and 12th months, until about 450 BC when they became the first and second months, making January 1st the first day of the new year. 

The Julian Calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC and later the months Quintilis (5th) and Sextilis (6th) were renamed Iulius (the month of Julius Caesar's birth - there was no letter J at that time) and Augustus (founder and first emperor of the Roman Empire).

March 25th was Feast of the Annunciation, the day the angel told Mary she would be the mother of Jesus, and is still celebrated as such in some religions. In AD 525 the monk Dionysius Exiguus introduced the calendar system of Anno Domini (AD - the year of our Lord), with the year 1 AD (and counting forward) following the year 1 BC (and counting backwards). Dionysius declared the day Jesus was "conceived", March 25th, to be New Year's Day.

When the Gregorian Calendar (introduced by Pope Gregory in 1502) was adopted by the British Empire in September 1752 it was decreed that January 1st was to be New Year's Day. So.....

Happy New Year!

Timeline of Calendars 0001-1972

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