Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy New Year, Again

Yet another calendar starts - or started, in this case. During the Middle Ages, many countries used the old Roman calendar, which started the year on January 1, but they numbered their years starting with different dates. One popular date for starting the year was March 25, nine months before Christmas and so the date of the Annunciation, when Mary's pregnancy began (only men would be so sure that a pregnancy is exactly nine months long!); in England, this was called the Old Style year, in contrast to New Style years that started in January. (England didn't switch completely to the new style until 1752, when it also adopted the Gregorian calendar.) England is as far north as Montana is, so I can see why they started their "real" year at the end of March: it is when it is finally obvious that spring is really coming and the agricultural year can start anew. It is the season of new lambs and baby chicks and fresh grass and new beginnings - a much more logical time for farmers to begin a new year than in the middle of the cold, dark winter.

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