I know it might seem a bit odd to be writing a blog about New Year’s Day well after the year’s started but it’s an interesting subject so I thought I’d do a bit on it. Now you know that whilst many folks around the world call Jan 1st New Year’s Day, there are of course many other New Years with a different date which are celebrated: Chinese, Vietnamese, Sinhalese, Tamil, Mayan, Telugu, Thai, Hindu, Islamic, Ethiopian etc. Each has its own reason for the date it uses.
What is interesting for us is that New Year’s Day has only been on 1st Jan since 1752; it’s been in use for just 261 years. It was then that the Gregorian Calendar took over from the Julian which dated right back to Julius Caesar in 46BC. In order to make that change they had to “lose” 11 days from the Julian to bring it into line with the new one: this meant that 2nd September 1752 was followed by 14th September 1752. I wonder how you would feel if say on Feb 1st this year the government said the next day would be dated 13th Feb; you’ve suddenly aged by an extra 11 days – or have you? What do you do if you keep a diary? What about if you rent a property? Do you get a rebate? What about if you went on holiday for two weeks starting on say 1st Sept 1752 – when do you go back to work?
The change also brought in 1st Jan as the date of the New Year. Before 1752 Britain used 25th March (the Vernal Equinox) as New Year’s Day. For example, the date of say 24th March 1710 was followed by the date 25th March 1711; and for any year prior to 1752, it that was the usual practice. For those of you who pay tax in the UK the losing of those 11 days (in Sept 1752) causing the date then to jump forward meant a jump forward from the original New Year (25th March) by those 11 days (Mar 26,27,28,29,30,31, Apr 1,2,3,4,5). And that is why our tax year runs from 6th April one year to 5th April the next. Following the papal bull of 1582, some countries adopted the Gregorian Calendar immediately whilst others did in the years following; actually eight countries had introduced Jan 1st as New Year’s Day prior to 1582. UK took 170 years to come into line. So now you know.
What about significant events on 1st January? History has a many but we’ll check out just a few:
45BC – The Julian Calendar comes into being.
1502 – Rio de Janeiro was discovered by the Portuguese. It is believed that Amerigo Vespucci was an observer on this expedition. In 1507 a German map maker named the southern part of the continent America. América (Portuguese & Spanish) is the female form of Amerigo; the words United States of America were first used in the 1776 Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson. Other interpretations & etymologies, of the name America, do exist so if you’re not persuaded by this one you can easily find an alternative.
1781 – The first all-iron bridge opened. It crossed the River Severn near Broseley Wood in Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire. It cost £6,000 then (over £1 million today). Abraham Darby III, a third generation Quaker and industrialist, promised to pay any shortfall over and above the original estimated cost of £3,150. He was in debt until he died 10 years later, in 1791 aged just 41.
PIC 1 (Ironbridge pic)
1856 – Van Diemen’s Land was officially named Tasmania. The first name was in honour of Anthony Van Diemen (the anglicised version of the Dutch name van Diemenslandt), the governor of the Dutch East Indies. It was him who’d sent the explorer Abel Tasman to the area and he is the origin of the present day name – Tasmania.
1962 – The Beatles Audition at Decca Record Studios in London. The group, then, consisted of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison & drummer Pete Best. The record company had also auditioned Brian Poole & The Tremeloes and following the sessions decided to go with them and not The Beatles. Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, was told, “guitar groups are on the way out, Mr Epstein”. Bizarrely the same guy who told Epstein this did in fact sign The Rolling Stones on the recommendation of a certain George Harrison! How about that? (In case you were wondering why people were working on Jan 1st back then, the date did not become an official Public Holiday in England until 1974 so it was just a normal working day.)
So there you have it. Happy New Year folks.