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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Year: Old, New or Both

Pope Gregory XIII
If you’re not quite ready to exchange the old for the new on January 1st, try sticking with the old year until January 14th.  Then wish everyone a Happy Old New Year as many regularly do in Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Montenegro, Belarus, Bosnia, Moldova, Republic of Macedonia, Herzegovina, Serbia (including Kosovo), Armenia, Kazakhstan, and in certain parts of the Scottish Gaelic community.

Who is responsible for this year-end confusion? 

Some say Julius Caesar.  He is often thought of as being instrumental in moving the Roman Empire away from its former lunar calendar.  This shift to the Julian solar calendar noticeably affected Easter calculations.  When the First Council of Nicea determined in 325 AD that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon following March 21st  - working with a solar calendar made the Easter dates become more and more varied.

In 1563 AD (more than 1200 years after these discrepancies began), Gregory XIII - with the help of priest/astronomer/mathematician Christopher Clavius -  decided to realign Easter dates with what he felt was the First Council of Nicea’s original intent.  This necessitated another major shift – over to what the world now calls the Gregorian calendar.

Pope Gregory XIII announced this change via a papal bull.  At that time, bulls were utilized for only the most solemn of papal communications; however, they had no real authority outside of the Catholic Church and Papal States.  Roman Catholic countries were slow to adopt the new calendar – slower yet were the other nations.  Many European countries didn’t officially adopt the Gregorian calendar until the 1700s – Japan and Korea not until the late 1800s – Russia, Greece and the Republic of China not until the 1900s.

A number of Orthodox churches, however, still adhere to the Julian calendar for religious purposes.  These Orthodox churches – including ones in Poland, Russia, Georgia, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, Jerusalem, and Old Calendarists in Greece – still therefore celebrate Christmas Day on the Gregorian January 7th.


Copyright January 1, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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