Both in history and in modern day culture, January is a busy month. Did you know that we celebrate the new year in January because ancient Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, changed the calendar so that January 1 became the ‘new’ New Year’s Day?
This took place 46 years before the birth of Christ, so the word January comes from the Roman god Janus. The Romans believed that this two-faced god’s spirit inhabited doorways and arches and looked out from both directions, as well as into the future and the past. The Romans offered sacrifices to this deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year as they thought that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future year.
Fast forward more than twenty centuries and we find ourselves in January 2022 with the new year celebrations behind us. January 1, in addition to ringing in the new year, is the anniversary of dozens of major events in American history. In 1776, George Washington unveiled the first version of the American Flag. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which abolished slavery across the United States. Ellis Island, which eventually became the landing point for over 20 million immigrants into the US, opened in 1892.
In 1975 as a result of the Watergate scandal, a number of former top aides to President Nixon were found guilty of obstruction of justice. China and the U.S. established diplomatic relations in 1979. And January 1 is also Polar Bear Swim Day for those hearty enough to take a new year’s day plunge.
Epiphany, which comes on January 6 and is commonly known as Three King’s Day on the Christian calendar in the United States, celebrates the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus and also commemorates his baptism.
This coming weekend, on January 15, Dr Martin Luther King would have celebrated his 93rd birthday if he had not lost his life to the assassin’s bullet in 1968. The federal holiday to honor the much-revered Baptist minister who led non-violent protests against segregation, always takes place the third Monday of January so will be celebrated this year on Monday January 17.
Every four years, the American President takes the oath of office on January 20 after the election of the previous November. This is called inauguration and comes from the Latin augurium meaning “omen.”
In ancient Rome, priests would interpret the flight of birds to determine a good or bad omen before the ruler or politician assumed office. Inauguration day for the US President used to be held on March 4.
This was in order to give the president-elect enough time to select a cabinet and travel to Washington, D.C. during the winter.
With technological advances in vote counting, communication, and travel, the long gap between voting and the assumption of office was eventually shortened: On January 23, 1933, the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution moved Inauguration Day to January 20.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first American President to be sworn into office on this date and this took place as he began his second term in 1937, with a large crowd looking on despite a cold, soaking rain On a much lighter note, every date on the calendar has been appropriated to represent or celebrate something, but a couple that appeal to me are tomorrow, January 14’s National Dress Up Your Pet Day and January 23’s National Pie Day. And here one I hadn’t heard of before - the last Monday of January has been designated Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day by those who enjoy the addictive pleasure of popping the bubbles on their favorite packaging material.
The traditional birthstone for people born in January is the garnet, which is actually not a single stone but rather a group of minerals. The most common color of garnet is red although some rare garnets are green, blue, orange, yellow, purple or colorless. Some even change color in different lights. This birthstone is meant to bring the lucky wearer good health, wealth and happiness. The word “garnet” comes from the 14th century Middle English word gernet, meaning “dark red.” The word is derived from Latin granatum, which means “seed,” and was inspired by the gemstone’s resemblance to the beautiful red seeds of the pomegranate.
The birth flowers for January are the snowdrop, symbolizing hope and rebirth and the carnation. Pink carnations symbolize love and appreciation, red carnations demonstrate love and friendship, and the white carnation represents luck, love and affection.
There is more information on the month of January at www.timeanddate.com and www.history.com As we plan for and look forward to the year ahead, I leave you with an inspirational quote which applies to us all, by Michael Altshuler, American speaker and author who is an expert in business leadership.
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot”.