To-day is the 158th celebration of January 1 as New Year’s Day. Although there was a general popular observance of the 1st of January as the beginning of the year, the ancient Jewish year, which opened with the 25th of March, continued long to have a legal position in Christian countries. In England it was not till 1752, however, that the 1st of January became the initial day of the legal, as it had been for a long time of the popular year. In Scotland this desirable change was made a by a decree of James VI in privy council in the year 1600. It was effected in France in 1546; in Holland, Protestant Germany, and Prussia in 1700, and in Sweden in 1753. The old Dionysian calendar is still retained in the Balkan States and in Greece, while in Russia the new style was adopted in 1902.
The ancient Egyptians had a year determined by the changes of the seasons which contained 365 days, divided into twelve months of thirty days each, with five supplementary days at the end of the year. The Greeks, in the most ancient period, reckoned according to the lunar months, twelve making a year. The Romans are said to have originally had a year of ten months, but in the time of their kings they adopted twelve months, with an occasional intercalary month. Caesar gave the months the number of days they still have.
The month of January was named after Janus, the deity supposed to preside over doors, who might very naturally be presumed also to have something to do with the opening of the year. His name was selected to represent the month Numa Pompilius, the Roman Emperor who decreed that the year should commence at this time, and added two new months to the ten into which the year had previously been divided. The deity Janus was represented by the Romans as a man with two faces, one looking backward and the other forward, implying that he stood between the old and the new year, with regard to both.
Almanacs, which are now so generally issued throughout the world with the beginning of the New Year, have been in existence for several centuries. The first important book of the character to be printed was written in Latin and issued in 1475. Almanacs in one form or another have played an important part in literature and history. In the United States the first almanac is said to have been published in Philadelphia in 1687. In 1731 Benjamin Franklin published the first issue of “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” which was continued for twenty-five years.
The Nautical Almanac, the most valuable of its character, was first published in 1767. In modern times the widely known “Almanach de Gotha,” printed both in German and French, contains much valuable statistical information. Whittaker’s Almanac, the Stateman’s Year Book, Hazell’s Annual, and books of that character are invaluable to-day by reason of the important information they contain.
January 1 is the birthday of Paul Revere (1735), Anthony Wayne (1745), Edmund Burke (1730), and the first American flag was used by Washington on January 1, 1776, at Cambridge, Mass.
This newspaper article was transcribed from a scan of the original newspaper article. The document was obtained from the Chronicling America newspaper collection and is in the public domain. It is being republished here in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.