In some circles today is commemorated as the day baby Jesus got a bit of his baby wee wee lopped off. In Greek Orthodox circles, anyway.
The whole New Year’s Baby thing had its start in Greece, too, in a roundabout way.
The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility.
A few countries away, thanks to Rome, people were wrapping their heads around this whole new idea of 12 months in a calendar year.
The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for “seven,” octo is “eight,” novem is “nine,” and decem is “ten.”
The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.)
That doesn’t mean everyone followed it, and it was all a bit of a zany way to measure years anyway, that old Roman lunar calendar, I mean. It wasn’t until 46BC when Julius Caesar dragged the empire kicking and screaming into a whole new solar calendar system that got them all organized again. According to the wilstar website, Jules had to let the year run a further 445 days before Jan 1 would properly line up with the sun. Imagine explaining that to a world before global telecommunication…
You’d think that would have sorted it all out, but no. People insisted in celebrating a new year any old time, usually in the spring, or abolished the party all together as being too damned pagan. It wasn’t until 1582 when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian one (in most places) that January 1 became officially the first day of the year again.
I never hear of this before: apparently during the French Revolution there was an attempt to create a calendar system to replace the Gregorian. According to Infoplease,
On October 5, 1793, the revolutionary convention decreed that the year (starting on September 22, 1792—the autumnal equinox, and the day after the proclamation of the new republic) would be divided into 12 months of 30 days, named after corresponding seasonal phenomena (e.g. seed, blossom, harvest).
The remaining five days of the year, called sans-culottides, were feast days. In leap years, the extra day, Revolution Day, was to be added to the end of the year. The Revolutionary calendar had no week; each month was divided into three decades, with every tenth day to be a day of rest. This straightforward calendar, however, perished with the Republic.
I wonder what day today would be on that calendar. Maybe it’s a good thing the revolution failed. I’d hate a nine day work week.