Celebrating New Year

December 30, 2009 at 2:59 am (History, Islam) ()

By Komal Hashmi

Man has advanced so far and yet knows so little. Many a times we donot realize that the customs we deem normal in our daily lives may have origins that are contradictory to our religious believes. Celebrating the solar new year is one of them.

A common man does not know the roots of the calendar we follow and the origin of the names of the days we happily teach our children and use in our daily lives. This is my humble attempt to educate others who like myself, were naïve to this reality.

Traditionally, the original Roman calendar consisted of 10 months, totaling 304 days, winter being considered a month less period. Around 713 BC, the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, King Numa Pompilius, is supposed to have added the months of January and February, allowing the calendar to equal a standard lunar year (355 days). Although March was originally the first month in the old Roman calendar, January became the first month of the calendar year either under Numa or under the Decemvirs about 450 BC (Roman writers differ).

Various Christian feast dates were used for the New Year in Europe during the Middle Ages, including March 25 and December 25. However, medieval calendars were still displayed in the Roman fashion of twelve columns from January to December. Beginning in the sixteenth century, European countries began officially making January 1 the start of the New Year once again — sometimes called Circumcision Style because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, being the eighth day from December 25.

The names of the months are derived from names of pagan gods or goddesses or from names of paganistic rituals.

January is named after Janus (Ianuarius), the god of the doorway; the name has its beginnings in Roman mythology, coming from the Latin word for door (ianua) – January is the door to the year. 

February was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 in the old Roman calendar.

The name of March comes from ancient Rome, when March was the first month of the year and named Martius after Mars, the Roman god of war.

The derivation of the name April(Latin Aprilis) is uncertain. The traditional etymology is from the Latin aperire, “to open,” in allusion to its being the season when trees and flowers begin to “open,” which is supported by comparison with the modern Greek use of ἁνοιξις (opening) for spring. Since most of the Roman months were named in honor of divinities, and as April was sacred to Venus. The Festum Veneris et Fortunae Virilis being held on the first day, it has been suggested that Aprilis was originally her month Aphrilis, from her Greek name Aphrodite (Aphros), or from the Etruscan name Apru. Jacob Grimm suggests the name being derived from a hypothetical god or hero, Aper or Aprus.

The month May has been named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility

June is named after the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter and equivalent to the Greek goddess Hera.

July was renamed for Julius Caesar, who was born in that month. Previously, it was called Quintilis in Latin.

This month was originally named Sextilis in Latin, because it was the sixth month in the original ten-month Roman calendar. In 8 BC it was renamed in honor of Augustus. (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, better known as Augustus {23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14}, was the first emperor of the Roman Empire)

In Latin, septem means “seven” and septimus means “seventh”; September was in fact the seventh month of the Roman calendar until 153 BC.

The eighth month in the old Roman calendar, October retained its name. (Latin “octo” meaning “eight”)

November is the 11th month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. November retained its name. (Latin novem meaning “nine”)

In Latin, decem means “ten”. December was also the tenth month in the Roman calendar.

Like the 12 months of the year the names of the seven days were also named on pagan gods and customs.

Sunday means sun’s day. Sun was worshipped by ancient man and was thus a divine symbol.

Monday or moon’s day is a tribute to the moon, also a divine symbol for the paganistic societies.

Tuesday was the day of Tîwaz, the Proto-Germanic a god of war and law.

Wednesday was the day of the English god Woden (Wodan), a god in Anglo-Saxon England until about the 7th century.

Thursday or Thunor’s Day (by influence of Old Norse Þorsdagr, became “Thor’s Day”). Thunor and Thor are derived from the Proto-Germanic god Thunaraz, god of thunder.

Friday:  The name Friday comes from Frige, a West Germanic translation of Latin dies Veneris, “day (of the planet) Venus.

Saturday was “Saturn’s Day”, It was named no later than the second century, for the planet (Saturn). The planet was named for the Roman god of agriculture Saturn.

We should realize, in context of this knowledge that we unknowingly pay homage to roman gods and goddesses and their customs when we merrily celebrate the New Year. It is never too late to amend ones ways. Let’s refrain from involving ourselves in alien customs and try to celebrate and promote Islamic ways.

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