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New year? Who says? A two-faced roman god! Revisit

December 31, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As my thoughts on this holiday – the only non-Jewish holiday I acknowledge – hasn’t changed the last 2 years, I’ll just repost my blog post from then. I acknowledge it, because this is how we count. I don’t celebrate. But I acknowledge it.

So why exactly is this a new year? Ever thought about that? Why doesn’t it switch from 2010 to 2011 on the 1st of September or July? Why does the new year start with January? Why? Why? And if the count is from the birth of Jesus, then why isn’t New Years on Christmas, which according to the church is his birthday?

I made some investigations about this, and found the following facts from the book “Antikens Historier” by Alf Henriksson:

A few hundred years BC, long before Rome became a super power, they developed their own calender. Some dude (can’t remember the name right now) named the first 4 months after gods: Mars, April, May, June (Although April is a mystery, maybe it’s not a god at all). The rest of the months got numbers from the fifth till the tenth: Quintillus, Sextullus, September, October, November, December. The first two were later changed to July and August by a couple of not very modest emperors.

Then from the end of the year, December, until the beginning of the new year, March, there was the dead time when no agricultural work could be done. This king dude whose name I can’t remember decided to make that into two months and named them January and February. February is a mystery but has to do with some pagan ritual of spanking naked people with flesh. As it was the last month of the year it also has less days.

Janus is the god of the Beginning, which gives us a clue to why this happened to be the first month after a while. When the romans prayed to their gods, Janus should always be mentioned first. He had 2 faces – one to the past and one to the future. He also had a temple with two doors who were to be open during times of war (a door keeper is still called janitor after that god). So somewhere along the way, the romans changed their new year from March to January.

However, what did the church make of all this? Of what I can see, the church was actually against celebrating new years on the 31st of December. It should rather be… Christmas? No, actually 9 months earlier, March 25th. “When Jesus became human”. Then there were others who had their new years on Easter, and the Byzantines had it on September 1st. There were other ideas also. Basically, there was a total confusion about this during the medieval times, simply because the popes repressed the “normal” and well known new year of December 31st. It was just too connected to all drinking and partying the pagans used to do.

The popes weren’t able to surpress the pagan memories of their people, and when the renaissance came people started thinking that everything greek and roman was good. So December 31st was reinstated as the last day of the year, officially in 1588 with the new Gregorian calender.

So that’s what we are celebrating today, people… uhm… a two faced roman god and medieval confusion. Hurray!

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for all the research work you did here. Good job. I think that I don’t celebrate Christmas as a mere celebration. I use the joy of this season as a rememberance of the fact that Christ became man and walked among us. Just as the celebration of communion is for a rememberance of what Christ did for us, Christmas to me is the same. Unfortunately, it has become a holiday with nothing holy about it to most of the world. Christ has been removed and the gods of gifts and greed has replaced him. That doesn’t change it for me, though. I just makes me sad to think that Jesus would leave the splendor of heaven to come to a world that he created to be rejected and killed. And then to have the day of rememberance celebrating his coming to earth once again be a time where creation has rejected and removed him from any part of it! It is hard to imagine the mercy of God to still love us!!


  2. 2 headed go huh? how blasphemist. but funny dont yu know romans ae going to get it for enslaving awh who cares youre going to pay! romans ha! those crazy romans


  3. Marianne, you should read the post about Christmas I did… =) I agree with most of what you say, but “And then to have the day of rememberance celebrating his coming to earth once again be a time where creation has rejected and removed him from any part of it!” is simply not true. Yes, I agree that Jesus is pretty much removed from the secular Christmas. But don’t forget that he was never there in the first place. The catholic church added him to a pagan holiday. The puritans and the first baptists refused to celebrate Christmas.


  4. I am going to read more about this. I know it started as a pagan holiday. Did the puritans celebrate birth of Christ ever?



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