Monday, January 6, 2020

The changing months

    Looking ahead to this new year, I began thinking about the months and how different each is. All their names were derived from early Roman culture.

    January was named for the two-faced god Janus, who could look into the past and the future simultaneously. February came from the Latin februa (to cleanse). The Februlia festival of purification and atonement lasted all month. March was devoted to the war god Mars. A time for renewing military campaigns that had been suspended over the winter. April came from the Latin aperio (to open or bud) for the plants coming alive again. May was named after the goddess Maia, in charge of plant growth. June was the Roman goddess Juno’s month. Her duties included sanctioning marriages and looking after women’s welfare. July honored dictator Julius Caesar, who with a little help developed the whole Julian calendar, which became the Gregorian calendar we still use. August was emperor Augustus Caesar’s turn for glory. September was from the Latin septem (seven), for the seventh month of the early Roman calendar. Likewise October, November, and December were simply named for their calendar order of eight, nine, and ten (octo, novem, and decem).

    All this worked fine throughout the Roman Empire and eventually in the whole northern hemisphere, but did not exactly fit the southern hemisphere, where they’re wintering while we’re summering, and while we’re budding they’re beginning to bundle up. But the whole world settled on the Roman system, nevertheless.

    It would be nice if we could agree on a few other things as well, since we’re all hitching a ride on this same big ball together.


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