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, created 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. The new first month, January, was selected based on its position with respect to the winter solstice. Julius Caesar later reformed the calendar to account for the solar year of 365 days in 46 BC. The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 replaced the Julian Calendar with the Gregorian Calendar, changing the formula for calculating leap years. The beginning of the legal new year was moved from March 25 to January 1. To make adjustments, 11 days were dropped from the month of September 1752. Six and a half million Britons went to bed on September 2, 1752, and woke up on September 14. According to W.M. Jamieson in his book, ‘Murders Myths and Monuments of North Staffordshire’, one William Willett of Endon apparently wagered that he could dance non-stop for 12 days and 12 nights. On the evening of September 2nd 1752, he started to jig around the village and continued all through the night. The next morning, September 14th by the new calendar, he stopped dancing and claimed his bets! 📆
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).
Historical names for January include its original Roman designation, Ianuarius, the Saxon term Wulf-monath (meaning "wolf month") and Charlemagne's designation Wintarmanoth ("winter/cold month").
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.