According to the sky we in the northern hemisphere are about to enter a new year (tomorrow 04.30am UT/GMT). The exact time is dependent on your location e.g. whether you’re in the northern or southern hemisphere and whether you are in night/day time. Solstices (Winter and Summer) and equinoxes (Spring and Autumn) aren’t on the same day each year so akin to the phases of the moon (and effects of) and astrology there is a cusp i.e. usually a 3 day period but can be upto a week. For example when people look forward to/are wary of the full moon they should take into account the day before and after the event as well, but the cusp is also a proviso for comparing calendars. Dates/times vary depending on the calendar/system used too since their reference markers are different – solar, lunar, lunisolar calendars – and for people into astrology the type of system used e.g. what we consider ‘regular’ tropical astrology in the West or sidereal astrology. The signs start/end at different times difference between these systems.
The seasons as we experience them in our tiny section of the Earth have their own temperaments (we and our brethren plant and animal species that we know as ‘life on earth’ live generally on the surface of a planet, some further down like deep water creatures but even they are far from immune to the goings on of people above them, and if we go up a few miles without aeronautic equipment we’re practically useless and without further equipment we’re dead meat & unlikely to exist at all in the cold reaches of space. Quite marvelous and ironic really isn’t it, especially since mentally we haven’t come that far from thinking our planetary neighbours revolve around us and the rest of humanity let alone everybody/thing else still doesn’t really factor into our everyday, individual lives.) For example Spring in weather (effects of) comes earlier for some than others and some countries start celebrating in what many would consider Winter but it’s really in our self-imposed calendars that the year ends and begins at the deepest/darkest point i.e. Dec/Jan.
The ‘midwinter’ (predominantly in December) festivals most commonly known are from the Roman period, though the Romans and Greeks are additionally well known for their juxtaposed belief systems and when Christianity won the day it the Feast of the Unconquered Sun became known as the birth of a Jesus [a] Christ. Celebrations on and around the Winter Solstice are generally about the day/light defeating the night/dark, the sun chasing away the dark, it will return triumphant – like all those beliefs about day and night the sun ‘falling’ ‘rising’ ‘sleeping’ ‘dying’ ‘being eaten’ when it doesn’t, we just view it that way; this is the yearly rather than daily dose of fear of death and the dark. Divine, semi-divine and illuminated, sainted beings aren’t haloed for nothing; their auras are depicted as radiant, particularly the crown ‘chakra’ associated with crystal/christos higher consciousness energy.
The twisted use of the year end/new year as I likened them HERE to April Fools Day is strange firstly because 31st Dec/1st Jan (whether Julian or Gregorian) is not an Earth or astronomical end/new year other than saying the days will slowly get longer from here, but it’s hardly a comfortable starting point for seasonal activity and the ‘body clocks’ of flora and fauna (why festivals at that time use evergreens – they’re practical and have become our symbolic champions over what we fear). Secondly the twist was entrenched in the annual customs throughout Europe that for short time turned the class system on its head with rich people (masters/clergy) acting out role reversal with their servants/lessers. All a bit of ‘good clean fun’, benevolence, generous tokenism and goodwill apparently but of course a major trick/test of character would be if the servants cum masters could restrain themselves because they’d be servants again soon enough. A prank/practical joke is only fun to an extent and you’re not the butt otherwise it’s just hazing/bullying.
Midwinter and Winter events in general are about sacrifice, usually blood sacrifice which the ‘cult of Saturnalia’ has become known for, and easily linked to the additional slaughtering of farm animals who would be an extra burden in cold times and easier to store as body parts. (Giving up something for Lent being a much softer, socially acceptable version and on a more regular basis substituting bread and wine for body and blood though many people aren’t afraid of supporting their local or supermarket ‘friendly’ butchers.) What are Spring festivals about? Renewal, birth and rebirth (and of course in everyday terms all festivals are about partying, eating/drink until you feel or are sick, merriment, doing embarrassing things you might regret later if you remember or are made to remember, having as much sex as possible etc).
There are other or extra ways of commemorating the new year however; preparing for the end/new fiscal year and focusing on the annual government announcement of the new budget for example. Midwinter and Spring in current times both constitute a new year in a significant way and both involve scrimping/saving/spending/splurging. Ever wondered by the tax year ends/begins in March-April? The following quote is from a blogger who has done an easy to understand summary:
Saturday, 5 April 2014
WHY DOES THE TAX YEAR BEGIN ON 6 APRIL?
The tax year starts on 6 April and runs through to the following 5 April. To find out why we need to go back a l o n g way.
Just over 2000 years ago, in AD 14, the first Roman Emperor Augustus died. Among his many legacies was the calendar we use today.
It was initially devised by his predecessor Julius Caesar. By the time Gaius Julius came to power the Roman calendar was in a mess. One reason was that it was a secret religious document controlled by the priest class and not subject to outside scrutiny. Their job was to make the calendar work and determine the dates of religious holidays, festivals, and the days when business could and could not be conducted. But they had done it badly for many years and Caesar inherited a calendar that was out of step with the seasons by a quarter of a year.
He called in an Egyptian astronomer Sosigenes and decided to put things right. He added 90 days to the year 46 BC to bring the calendar into line with the seasons so that the spring equinox was on 25 March and the year began on 1 January as it was supposed to do. Caesar decreed that in future the calendar would follow the solar year of 365.25 days divided into twelve months of 30 or 31 days apart from the 28 day February to which would be added the leap day every fourth year.
Two years later, on the Ides of March 44 BC (15 March), Julius Caesar was assassinated on the steps of the Senate. As was their wont, the priests who were left in charge of the calendar mistook the instructions and added the extra day every third year (they counted inclusively 1-2-3-4 so to them the third year was called the fourth).
This error went unnoticed for more than thirty years and was finally corrected by Julius’s successor, Augustus. By then the seventh month had been named after Julius and on Augustus’s death in AD 14 the eighth month was named for him.
Apart from that one change the amended Julian calendar with the same months of the same lengths and a leap year every fourth year has run continuously since the year 8 BC.
But one small correction was needed. The Julian Calendar assumes the year is 365.25 days long – hence the extra leap day every four years. In fact the year is very slightly shorter than that. So over many centuries the calendar began to get more and more out of step with the seasons. Towards the end of the 16th century it was almost two weeks ahead of the Sun. Pope Gregory XIII decided to correct it. He took ten days out of the calendar – which fixed the spring equinox around 20/21 of March – and decreed that in future there would no Leap Year in century years unless they were also divisible by 400. Taking out three days every 400 years would almost precisely align the new Gregorian calendar with the time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun.
The change was made in October 1582 and much of Europe soon followed. But the Protestant UK refused to obey a Papal decree and no change was made in the UK or in what were then its Colonies and Dominions. So our calendar got further out of step with the seasons and of course our dates were different from much of Europe.
It took nearly 200 years before the British Government decided to make the necessary changes. The Calendar Act of 1751 decreed that Wednesday 2 September 1752 would be followed by Thursday 14 September thus removing eleven days and bringing the calendar back where it should be. It also provided that the new year would start on 1 January. Many people had reverted to starting it on the old Roman equinox day of 25 March. You can still find eighteenth century books published early in the year with two dates such as ‘1724/25’.
But there was a problem. Tax was due over a whole year. So if there were 11 fewer days in 1752 tax would be due 11 days early and over a shorter period. At the time the tax year began on that Roman spring equinox day, 25 March. It was called Lady Day and was one of four quarter days when rent and other payments fell due. So the Government decided that the 1753 tax year would begin eleven days later on 5 April to give the full 365 days over which tax was due.
That is still one day short of its present starting date.
That extra day was added in 1800. That year would have been a Leap Year under the old calendar but not under the new Gregorian Calendar as century years (except those divisible by 400) were no longer leap years. Again there were protests. If people were denied their extra day of 29 February then they would be paying the same taxes but over a shorter period than they expected. Once again the Government gave in and extended the tax year by a day so it ended on 5 April and the next one began on 6 April 1800. And that is where it has remained. In 1900 no-one demanded the extra day for the tax year and the question did not arise in 2000 as it was divisible by 400 and so was a leap year.
An apt example of British changes to the calendar for tax purposes in alignment with Spring activity in it’s dominion was in India. Following the seasons is a farming must and India was and still is has major agricultural industry. Savvy conquerors know that it’s easier to incorporate and metamorphose on already existing cultures if they want longevity, so the Hindu New Year festival (beginning of April, after Holi – a Spring festival) was best to start the financial year at the same time. Current thought tends to offer up the argument that Winter is better for New Year and selling to consumers and Spring for taxes and budgeting but as we can see it doesn’t stop some people being able to party and Indians have reasons for major festivity all year round. I don’t know where they get the energy, our populace is lethargic in comparison.
The meaning of ‘Lady Day’ is interesting too. In the ecclesiastic calendar Lady Day is also the Feast of the Annunciation (where the young teen virgin Mary who’d been married to a much older Joseph was told by a voice – don’t know whether internal or external – and we assume by the Christian ‘God’ (though some say by an angel) rather than any other of the gods at the time, Zeus for example (the rampant rapist and notoriously underhanded traditionally depicted big thunderous guy in the sky, bearded, robed in White archetype who disguised himself as Alcmene’s husband to sleep with her, her actual husband returning later and she apparently becoming pregnant by both in one night wasn’t above ensuring that his children would have demi-god powers such as conspiring with Athena to get the babe nursed by Hera and later he audaciously became known as Hera-Kleos/Hercules) or anyone with projecting, possessing and penetrating capabilities that she was carrying a special child. (The Abrahamic religions disagree on whether he was called/or even was a/the Son of God and whether he was a/the Messiah) and from what we surmise it was a great honourable vessel role rather than obligation/duty. I’d hate to think what would have happened to her had she miscarried or had complications). Jesus died/was resurrected at the same time of year.
People tend to believe that the announcement was of Mary’s conception therefore leading to the December birth date, there is controversy over whether that was his birth date. Regardless of whether or not people believe the story to be factual as it is told with or without the omissions/additions/changes over time, or bible numerical coding being more significant, theoretically there could be upto a few months leeway since it’s unclear whether the announcement was at conception or after (and assuming Joseph hadn’t made sure to consummate the marriage as most couples are eager to do regardless of period in history, married or not). I note that many females (especially those in the early years of menstruation when it’s irregular) don’t know they’re pregnant near conception, and conception to birth isn’t exactly nine months. Overall it’s very well aligned with the astronomical markers and in tune with older sol/sun sowing/harvest/sacrifice rites/ritual/ceremony/belief/symbolism (older religions from/stemming from the cradles of civilisation – Egypt/Mesopotamia/India – have the birth/death/resurrection of a divinity story too).
25th March (Lady Day and Feast of Annunciation) is also the fifth day of Holy Week which is before or overlapping Eastre – Easter being a series of festivals interestingly based on the lunar rather than solar calendar and associated with goddess culture. Bear in mind that Easter was and in some branches still is in line with Passover, when Jewish people broke away from Egypt.
EDIT – The Feast of Annunciation has been transferred this year 2016 from 25th March to 4th April but Christmas hasn’t been changed to 4th Jan 2017 😉 . (Strangely the usual Easter end of term school holidays have been transferred too from the two week period including Good Friday and Easter Monday national bank holidays to the following two weeks so 4-8th and 11-15th April off instead.)
Intriguingly enough the legal year previously began in Spring too; the traditions it was/is celebrated with, the dress, and the educational background and professional status of the ‘pillars’/’fathers’ (not specifically referring to the US ‘founding fathers’) and the translating scribes of law, education and science makes you wonder why those and church/religion are thought of as separate entities/ideals.
Now the opening of the legal/civil year is in October and the government summer recess takes place within the end of year and beginning of year period.
In England, the year is divided into four terms:
Michaelmas term – from October to December
Hilary term – from January to April
Easter term – from April to May, and
Trinity term – from June to July.
Between terms, the Courts are in vacation, and no trials or appeals are heard in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The legal terms apply to the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme courts only, and so have no application to the Crown Court, county courts, or magistrates’ courts. The longest vacation period is between July and October. The dates of the terms are determined in law by a Practice Direction in the Civil Procedure Rules. The Hilary term was formerly from January 11 to 31, during which superior courts of England were open.
Start of the legal year
The legal year commences at the beginning of October, with a ceremony dating back to the Middle Ages in which the judges arrive in a procession from the Temple Bar to Westminster Abbey for a religious service, followed by a reception known as the Lord Chancellor’s breakfast, which is held in Westminster Hall. Although in former times the judges walked the distance from Temple to Westminster, they now mostly arrive by car. The service is held by the Dean of Westminster with the reading performed by the Lord Chancellor.
The ceremony has been held continuously since the Middle Ages, with the exception of the years 1940 to 1946 because of World War II. In 1953 it was held in St Margaret’s Church because Westminster Abbey was still decorated for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
In Ireland, the year is, like England, divided into four terms:
Michaelmas term – from October to December
Hilary term – from January to April
Easter term – from April to May, and
Trinity term – from June to July.
With a Christmas, Easter, Whit and Long Vacation between them respectively. The Michaelmas term, and legal year, is opened with a service in St. Michan’s Church, Dublin attended by members of the Bar and Law Society who then adjourn to a breakfast given in the King’s Inns.
The United States Supreme Court follows part of the legal year tradition, albeit without the elaborate ceremony. The Court’s year-long term commences on the first Monday in October (and is simply called “October Term”), with a Red Mass the day before. The court then alternates between “sittings” and “recesses” and goes into final recess at the end of June.
Looks like Midwinter mass comes early for some people, they look like a parade of Santa Claus’.
Very few people do know how Tradition is supposed to go. There’s a certain mysterious ridiculousness about it by its very nature – once there was a reason why you had to [insert superstition/custom] but now you did it because that’s what was Done.
– from ‘Jingo’ by Terry Practhett
To me 31st Dec/1st Jan isn’t and end/beginning since it’s such a mixup – who says the end has to be the beginning anyway? What no rest for the not-so-wicked? Maybe God can manage resting on one day of the week (some think Saturnday others Friday i.e. Venus or Frigg Day – evening to Saturday evening others Sunday) but I couldn’t put up with the principle of duality and opposing archetypes let alone for eons through the belief systems of all major post-Vedic/cradle of civilization peoples. It’s like the Fools Day but in the Winter and the joke’s on who? (Even more so with weather modification technology, pollution and daily life stresses playing havoc with our environmental and ‘body clocks’.)