The Evangelical Universalist Forum

How Julius Caesar Changed New Year



Why does the new year now begin in the coldest month of the year? Shouldn’t it begin in Spring when the hours of daylight begin to be longer than the hours of darkness? Well… it always had been that way until Julius Caesar added 67 days to the year in 46 B.C. The Julian calendar actually was a great improvement to the previous calendar that didn’t correspond properly to the seasons, and an intercalendar month had to be thrown in every once in a while. But the Julian calendar, great improvement that it was, threw the new year completely out of whack.

Did you ever wonder where December got its name? “Dec” is a prefix for “ten.” Our decimal system is based on ten. Likewise “Nov” in “November” indicates the 9th month. “Oct” in “October” names the 8th month. An octagon has 8 sides. “Sept” in “September” the 7th month. Before Julius Caesar, the month that is now called “July” was then called “Quintilis” which indicated the 5th month. But Julius Caesar wanted a month named after himself, and so he called it July. The sixth month was called “Sextilus” but Augustus Caesar had that month called “August” named after himself. And he made sure there were as many days in his month as Julius had in his. So that’s why July and August are the only consecutive months in the year that both have 31 days.

So if you count 67 days from January 1, you will be brought into March. That was the first month in ancient Roman times. And, of course, spring begins in March.

We also find in the Old Testament that Passover was to be celebrated in the first month.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. (Exodus 12:1,2 ESV)

Then THE LORD then tells them to put blood on their door posts and says that He will strike the firstborn of every man and beast, but “when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” He then tells them to keep the feast of the Passover to all generations. To this day, religious Jews keep the Passover feast annually in late March or early April.

In ancient times, the New Year began around what is now March 25.