The Roman calendar and January 1
Where I live, today is New Year’s Eve and tomorrow will be January 1st, New Year’s Day. So why have I chosen this picture of a stone statue instead of the typical New Year’s picture? Where are the party hats, champagne and festive people?
In the United States, the use of January 1st dates back to the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius. He changed the Roman calendar, adding January and making it the first month of the year. BTW Numa Pompilius was one cool guy — check him out!
Janus, the Roman god
Pompilius named January after Janus, the god of doors, gates and beginnings. Janus was a god with two faces; one face looking forward and the other looking backward. I chose this picture because it is a picture of a statue of Janus.
I think it’s fascinating that I’ve grown up celebrating my new year based on this Roman god. For example, tomorrow is the beginning of a new calendar year for me. It is also a time when I look backward and reflect on what happened in the old year and I look forward to a new year by making resolutions.
In addition, midnight on New Year’s Eve can be seen as a gate or doorway; the time I step from one year into the next. For one night and one day I symbolically recreate Janus, the god that Pompilius worshiped:~)
I see this as being wonderfully ironic; a sign that we carry bits and pieces of history with us, even if we’ve forgotten where they’ve come from.
The universal message of a new year
That being said, not everyone in the world celebrates New Year’s on January 1st. Yet, almost every culture has some form of New Year’s celebration.
I believe this celebration represents more than just a date on the calendar. I think of it as a common thread that weaves our disparate cultures together. No matter where or when a new year is celebrated, it usually represents similar themes:
The death of winter and the rebirth of spring.
The link between the past and the future.
The time for reconciliation and renewal.
As I see it, these are universal themes and they unite us as a people, regardless of where we live or what we believe. Therefore, while I celebrate my new year, I will also be reminded of how very connected we all are on this small planet called Earth.
So, from where I am, Happy New Year!