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Friday, January 09, 2015

Who Does He Think He Is?

This is the New Year for us where I live. When we cross that bridge from December 31 to January 1, the land around us is snow-covered, the water is icy if not quite iced over. The wind bites.

I always thought Spring would make a better New Year since it is the time of new beginnings - new babies, new green growing things, new heart for people who yearn for the sight of colorful flowers and the feel of warm breezes and the fecund smell of an awakening earth.

Or perhaps, October, when the harvest is done and everything is butchered and canned and covered. The earth celebrates the end of its work year with a riot of color before it shuts down and goes into hibernation. People look forward to a time of rest before the hard labor of a new season begins, at least, that's the way it was when most of us lived by the rhythms of farming.

But no, here we are, celebrating on January 1, which is just a continuation of winter really...just two more long months of cold to look forward to.

There's no particular reason we have to celebrate the coming of a new year on January 1 except centuries of tradition. For generations, the new year came in March but our current new year was dictated by the Roman god, Janus, the ancient, two-faced god – for whom the month of January is also named. One face of Janus looked back into the past, and the other peered forward to the future and I guess that's how he earned the honor of naming the new year.

We could have changed it once pretty easily before the whole world was computerized and industrialized. An emperor could have simply declared it - "I hereby declare April 1 to be the start of the year forevermore", and we'd have complied - but I suppose it is too late now.

It doesn't really make much difference to a retired writer. If anything, the cold is more conducive to staying home with my nose to the grindstone of the computer than birdsong and roses would be but still, it's irksome because I resent that old Janus having the glory of being able to dictate the start of our calendar.

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