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Today in History: New Year's Day (45 B.C.)

On this day, in 45 B.C, the world began celebrating New Year's Day on January 1 upon implementation of the Julian Calendar. Learn something about the origins of New Year's Day after the jump!

Photo by plasticpopsicle

People all over the world have many different ways to celebrate the fresh, new year. But, how many of us have an idea about New Year’s Day’s origins? When did people start holding festivities for bidding farewell to one year and welcoming another?

When Julius Caesar became a Roman dictator, one of the first things he had in mind was reworking the traditional Roman calendar, which his empire had been following since the seventh century B.C. However, he noticed that it frequently failed to coincide with the seasons, and those who oversee the calendar often took advantage of it by adding days for extending political terms or even meddling in elections.

Caesar sought the help of an Alexandrian astronomer named Sosigenes, who advised him to follow the Egyptian calendar, which took its cues from the solar year. Calculations lead to 365 and 1/4 days, to which the Roman leader added 67 days to 45 B.C., causing 46 B.C. to fall on January 1 instead of March. To theoretically address the problem of inconsistencies, Caesar also declared that February will have an extra day every four years. Also, around this time, Caesar managed to change the month of Quintilis and name it Julius (July) after himself, shorty before he was assassinated in 44 BC.

However, the Julian Calendar was still not perfect. The calculations of Caesar and his astronomer actually rendered an error of 11 minutes per year, as the correct value was 365.242199 days and not 365.25 days. So, by the year 1000, there was an additional seven days, and by mid-15th century, an additional 10 days. This means that the people during the Middle Ages didn’t observe the New Year on January 1st.

It was only when Pope Gregory XIII enlisted the expertise of Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius that the problem of extra days was resolved. Their solution in 1582 was to omit 10 days for that year and apply the concept of leap year, leading to the Gregorian Calendar which we follow to this day. Since then, the world has been welcoming and celebrating the beginning of a new year every January 1st.

Here’s to hoping for better, analogue-filled days for us this 2012!

Information for this article were taken from This Day in History and New Year’s Day on Wikipedia.

written by plasticpopsicle

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