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Who made January the first month of the year?


A new year is a time to look forward and plan new ventures and goals. But why does the New Year start in January? It hasn’t always been this way. So, where did our calendar originate?

The Ancient Egyptians developed one of the earliest calendars and started the New Year in the northern hemisphere’s spring. This seemed appropriate as new life emerged from the darkness of winter.

But then in 46 BC the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, came along. He and his scholars tinkered with the Egyptian calendar and created the Julian year. When you rule a large part of the world, you can do what you like with someone else’s calendar and they established a 12-month year starting with January.

The first six months were named after Roman gods, goddesses and a feast. The next two were named after Roman emperors. They ran out of ideas for the last four months so they reverted to the early Roman calendar and named them after the number of the month in the that calendar.

January After Janus the god of the sun - new year and new beginnings

February A Latin feast of purification held on the fifteenth

March After Mars the god of war

April After the Greek goddess of love, Aprhrodite

May After the Greek goddess of spring, Maia

June After goddess Juno, the Queen of the gods

July After Julius Caesar (of course!)

August After Augustus, the first Roman Emperor

September The seventh month of the early Roman calendar (sept is Latin for 7)

October The eighth month (oct is Latin for 8)

November The ninth month (novem is Latin for 9)

December The tenth month (decem is Latin for 10)

In the ensuing five hundred years, various people modified the Julian calendar, and as Europe became more united there was a need for a consistent system. Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar in 1582 and kept January as the first month. We still use his calendar today.

Of course, the Romans are not the only ones who developed a calendar. The Hindu calendar celebrates New Year or “Diwali” in October/November and the Jewish New Year or “Rosh Hashanah” is celebrated in September/October. The Chinese New Year is in January/February.

And a little more trivia to end on – did you know that a common year (not a leap year) is 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds long - or 365.242199 days?


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