Jan 1, 2013

January 1: The first day of the Gregorian year

Roman deity Janus
January 1 is the first day of the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar. With most countries using the Gregorian calendar as their main calendar, New Year's Day is the closest thing to being the world's only truly global public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the New Year starts.

The choice of January 1 as the beginning of a new year dates back to the late 16th century when Pope Gregory designed the Liturgical Calendar.

January originally owes its name to the Roman deity Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings, who had two faces, one looking forward and the other looking backward.

In the Middle Ages (the period in European history from the collapse of the Roman civilization in the 5th century AD to the beginning of the Renaissance -- variously interpreted as beginning in the 13th, 14th, or 15th century, depending on the region of Europe and on other factors) most European countries used the Julian calendar which observed New Year's Day on March 25th, called Annunciation Day -- an occasion celebrating angel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive a Son of the Holy Spirit to be called Jesus (Luke 1:26–38).

With the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, Roman Catholic countries began to celebrate New Year's Day on January 1 -- this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, considered to be the eighth day of Christ's life, counting from December 25 when his birth is celebrated. Scotland accepted the Gregorian calendar in 1600; Germany, Denmark, and Sweden about 1700; and England in 1752. Traditionally the day was observed as a religious feast, but in modern times the arrival of the New Year has also become an occasion for spirited celebration and the making of personal resolutions. (Adapted from Britannica Encyclopedia, Encarta Encyclopedia, and Wikipedia)