Winter Dancing, Brian Kershishnik
New Year's Dancing
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Janus am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward,
and below I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals come and go."
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
Calendar keeping has always been complex. Originally March was the first month of the 10 month Roman calendar (which did not tally the winter days), the month when Rome dispatched its armies and the consuls entered office. However, to overcome the problem with the 10 month year of 304 days, two new months, January and February (plus an occasional month between February and March called Intercalaris to deal with the leap years and other issues like short months) were created to cover the whole 354 day lunar calendar some time around 710-700 BC, and the new first month, January, was selected based on its position with respect to the winter solstice. Later Julius Caesar reformed the calendar to account for the solar year of 365 days in 46 BC.
January, on average, is the coldest month of the year within most of the Northern Hemisphere (where it is the second month of winter) and the warmest month of the year within most of the Southern Hemisphere (where it is the second month of summer).
January (in Latin, Ianuarius) is named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions, protector of gates and doorways.
Traditionally, the original Roman calendar consisted of 10 months only totaling 304 days, winter being considered a month-less period. Around 713 BC, the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, King Numa Pompilius, is supposed to have added the months of January and February, so that the calendar covered a standard lunar year (354 days).
For a discussion on poetry associate with the "barren month" of January (for us Northern Hemispherians), click the more cheerful scene of skaters from the 1820s.