"We look before and after..." B.P. Shelly, To a Skylark
A line from a poem that is frequently used at funeral services, but it also fits our conception of the Old/New Year.
There are nine hours of daylight on January 1st as the sun began its slow climb on December 21st. The season is winter, which is the only one that spans two calendar years.
The month of January was named for the Roman god, Janus (Janus Bifars) or Janus with two faces. He was the god of beginnings, which were sure to have good endings.
Janus is said to have invented the use of money as the oldest Roman coins had an effigy of Janus on one side and the prow of a boat on the other.
The beginning of the calendar year in January (Janvier) is a civil function. Early Christians declared it a fast and meditation day. They did a lot of fasting and it may have coincided with an effort to conserve food during the harsh winter months. Three or four hundred years-ago this began to change and it evolved into a time of celebration.
Barbara Appleby does the creative illustrations for this blog. She takes our vague ideas and designs jim-dandy pictures. Thanks Barb, you have no idea how much we appreciate your work.