Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Things you may not know about the New Year

It is New Year’s Eve, a time for partying and celebration. Well, actually, not always. As Borgna Brunner notes:

“The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.”

James Frazer, in “The Golden Bough” constructed a Celtic New year, which began at the festival of Samhain, better known as Halloween. Modern pagans follow this.

And as genealogists know, you have also to be very careful when looking at family trees, even in fairly recent times, as a family tree information site notes:

“In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII determined that the Julian calendar was incorrect: each day was just a little bit too long and the human calendar wasn't keeping up with nature's calendar. To solve the problem, Pope Gregory XIII created what is known as the Gregorian calendar. This new calendar changed the first day of the year to January 1 and also jumped ahead by 10 days to make up for the lost time.”

“At the time of the settling of New England in America, the New Year began on the 25th of march. Thus, March 24th was in 1599 and March 25th in 1600.”

“Later, a new form of designating the New Year was adopted and the first time it was used was in the General Court of Connecticut as "this 20th day of March, 1649-50, or 1650 by our present system of reckoning. This style prevailed for almost 100 years. Due to an error in the calendar, the dates in all months between 1600 and 1700 should be carried forward ten (10) days. Thus, July10 was realy July 20, according to our present system.”

"The British Parliament changed the calendar from the old style to the new, the one used today, and changed the date of September 3rd, 1752 (old calendar) to September 14, 1752 (new calendar) thus dropping eleven days.”

Why did the British take so long to change their calendar? The Encyclopedia of Genealogy explains:

“The problem was caused by the fact that non-Catholic western countries, particularly England and all of her colonies, were exceedingly disinclined to accept the scientifically correct, but "Roman" created calendar, they being suspicious of anything decreed by a Catholic Pope.” “

“After a delay of one-hundred-seventy years, England finally accepted the Gregorian calendar by a 1751 Act of Parliament. September 2, 1752 was set as the last day of the Julian calendar, and the following day was declared to be 14 September -- a deletion of eleven days. The eleven days came about because the long delay included the year 1700, introducing one more erroneous Leap Year day from the Julian calendar. Thus genealogists have to deal with a long period of ambigous record dates for English and colonial records from 1 January through 24 March, in years prior to 1753.”


1 comment:

James said...

And this is also why in the UK the tax year starts on 6 April (the old New Year's Day, with 11 days added to it).

Not to mention the connection to one tradition of April Fool's day...