The first also honey post I published, almost a year ago today, was a list of all the new years resolutions that I never actually achieved – and in some cases never even attempted.
I’m going to go with something really original this year, and just not make any resolutions.
In that first post, I made a cute comment about how maybe next year I’d explain why January First was chosen to be the start of the Julian calendar’s new year. Well fine, past self. I can take up that challenge.
The Julian solar calendar was established as part of old man Julius’ dictatorial clean-up act, another step in the direction of the Roman Empire out of the corrupt Republic (sounds like a Star Wars opening crawl). The Republic’s calendar had been based on the lunar cycle – the moon goes around Earth once a month, right? But the number of lunar cycles in a year is completely arbitrary, unless linked to the time it takes for Earth to orbit the sun, the solar year. Roman priests called pontifices were in charge of this lunar calendar, and sometimes they played a little too fast and loose with it for Caesar’s liking.
But why January 1st? It was already in use as the date the consuls took office during the Republic. The other option was March 1st, the beginning of spring, at least in the northern hemisphere.
The religious significance is that March is the month of Mars, the war god. January is the month of Janus, the two-faced god of doorways, choices, endings and beginnings. Janus also has some connections as a solar deity, making him the ideal choice to lead in the new year.
But again, why January? Or more specifically, why midwinter? Why not early spring, or even summer or fall. In 2018, the Islamic New Year (based on a lunar calendar) will be in September. The Chinese New Year festival is always around January and February, a step closer to spring on its way.
I personally think there is a good reason that the new year (at least in the northern hemisphere) starts midwinter. Unlike the earlier holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa – New Years celebrations are not about feasting and thanksgiving. At the coldest time of year, New Years is about coming together, bundling up, drinking away the sorrows and mistakes of the previous year, and anticipating what the future and the warmth of spring will bring.
I have no idea if that’s what the Romans were thinking of when they decided on January 1st. You can make up your own mind on that.
For me, this year I’ll take a leaf out of Janus’ book. All those lofty resolutions I made last year were wrong. I thought I could predict where my life would take me, and who I would be while writing this post, today.
No resolutions this year. No predicting the future, only looking forward. No bringing the past with me, only watching it go by, and learning from my mistakes. No holding myself to liminal methods of self-improvement, a false guideline for what I should have done without appreciation for what I did do. I did a lot last year. I’ll do a lot again this year. And when life takes me in unexpected directions, I won’t stop and say “oh darn, when am I ever going to have time to make croissants?”
Featured image credit to Michael Hoad.