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Happy New Year!

According to the earliest Roman calendars, attributed to King Romulus, it was March that rang in the new year.  This also helps to explain why the months of September, October, November, and December derive from the Latin words for seven, eight, nine, and ten, respectively.  The Romans were an agricultural people whose year revolved around the harvest cycle.  The calendar year began with the oncoming of Spring and concluded with the celebration of the harvest.  The very first calendars even left a “winter gap” for the period of time between the harvest and Spring.  It was Julius Caesar who moved the beginning of the year to the month of January when he reformed the calendar in 45 B.C.  He did so with the help of Sosigenes, an Egyptian astronomer.  The new Julian Calendar was very well calculated and even included a leap year.  It was so well designed, in fact, that it was used for about 1500 years before the court of Pope Gregory detected an error.  I will leave you in suspense as to what the error was and how exactly it was resolved.  But to make a long story short, the result was the Gregorian Calendar that we still use today, a calendar that is virtually identical to the Julian Calendar – with only a slight modification.  You can find a complete lesson on the relationship between these calendars in an appendix to the Teacher’s Edition of Latin Alive! Book 1.   The lesson includes a project that guides students in creating their own rendition of the Roman Calendar.

If you are interested in viewing a modernized version of the Roman Calendar online you may want to check out this website:

This site not only includes an electronic version of an authentic Roman calendar, but also a list of Roman holidays and their dates.  Be sure to click on the “instructions” to learn how to read the abbreviations and terminology used.

3 Responses to “Happy New Year!”

  • Kristen:

    Interesting link… I wish we had that many holidays on the current calendar!

  • Phoebe:

    The Calendar website says …”the Day of Blood (Good Friday), the Entry of the Tree (Palm Sunday), the Festival of Joy (Easter),” … were celebrated by the Romans prior to the “modern” holidays. Did the romans celebrate those dates in B.C.? I know Christmas was a Roman holiday and Christians celebrated on that date because that’s when they were allowed to, though truly Jesus was born when the sheep were out to pasture in the fall… Is it the same with the resurrection – is it celebrated on an alternate date that coincides with a roman holiday, or did Jesus die during an already existing Roman holiday?

  • Karen Moore:

    That is a really great question. Yes, the Romans did have celebrations on those dates prior to those celebrated by Christians. Easter was celebrated long before Christ. It was a celebration of a goddess of spring and fertility, celebrated with egg hunts and bunnies (sound familiar). The Christian version of that holiday, like Christmas, was set to combat the Pagan holiday and incorporated the pagan traditions. Some sources say that the Emperor Constantine, the first Christian ruler of the Roman Empire, officially ordained Easter a celebration of the Christ’s resurrection in the 4th century A.D. While we don’t know the exact date (month, day, year) of the crucifixion and resurrection, we do know that it happend in conjunction with the Jewish feast of Passover. The famous “Last Supper” in the upper room was the Passover feast. However, it is not uncommon for Good Friday and Easter to occur before Passover. That is because the Easter holiday is determined not by the Jewish calendar, but by the Vernal Equinox (Spring Solstice) just as it always had been in its pagan origins. The holiday occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

    Here are some websites that might further insight.

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