Here we are at the end of January, and the holiday break last month now seems like a long time ago.
Christmas and New Year are wonderful of course, but I love my work and it felt good to get back to “normal” after the festive break.
As great as the holiday season is, there is only so much celebrating, feasting and togetherness I can take – not to mention the shopping, cooking and cleaning. And so, here we are, already one-twelfth of the way through the first year of this new decade as January draws to a close.
January, considered the coldest month of the year in most of the Northern Hemisphere and the warmest month in the Southern Hemisphere, is named after the two-faced Roman god of doors, Janus, because this month is the door from the old into the new year.
The Romans believed that he represented all beginnings and possessed the ability to see all things past and future.
However, did you know that the months of January and February did not originally exist in the ancient Roman calendar?
The early Romans divided the year into 10 months and left 61 days unaccounted for in the winter.
Around 700 B.C., they did add the months of January and February but for centuries these months were thought of as the last rather than the first months of the new year, which began on March 25.
While astronomers and mathematicians from several ancient civilizations had long realized that a tropical year was roughly 365 1⁄4 days, a variety of ancient calendars from differing cultures developed independently, generally using a wide range of less precise periods.
By the time Julius Caesar became Emperor of Rome in 45 B.C., the world had a real hodgepodge of calendars, all with various misalignments and gradual but expanding differences.
Caesar called on the best minds of Rome to create a more regulated civil calendar, a solar calendar based entirely on Earth’s revolutions around the sun, and it included an extra day every four years.
While many cultures and countries did not, of course, immediately adopt what became known as the Julian calendar, it had fixed relationships to other calendars in use. The process of conversion became relatively straightforward through the use of conversion tables.
Fast forward about 160 decades to 1582. Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal decree that introduced the much more accurate Gregorian calendar, which he modestly named after himself.
It was designed to correct the Julian calendar, shortening the average year by 0.0075 days to stop the drift of the calendar with respect to the equinoxes.
Unfortunately, this meant that there would be a loss of ten days for those countries that switched over immediately, and more the longer other countries took to switch over.
In fact, it took more than 300 years for the Gregorian calendar to become adopted throughout the world.
The devoutly Catholic countries of France, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain switched as soon as the Pope introduced his new calendar.
However, the land of my birth – Great Britain and all its colonies, including North America at that point, did not make the switch until 1752 and had to skip 11 days – leading to a very short September that year.
Turkey was the last country to officially switch to the new system on Jan. 1, 1927. Today, the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars is about 13 days. There is much more information at timeanddate.com.
Getting back to modern day, did you know that in the U.K. we do not “check our calendar” but instead “look at our diary?” I remember confusing people when I first started working in the U.S. as I would talk about my diary, and many people assumed I wrote lengthy entries about my daily experiences – as in “Dear Diary …” I will leave you with a quote from a man who knew something about making every single day in his calendar really count – 20th century American inventor, engineer and businessman Charles Kettering (1876-1958).
Kettering is credited with 186 patents, including the electric ignition system for automobiles and an incubator for premature infants. He also founded what became The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
“Every time you tear a leaf off a calendar, you present a new place for new ideas and progress.”
God bless America!