Monday, January 3, 2011

Janus, The Two-Headed God

Why, TigerBlog has long wondered, is January the first month of the year?

In many ways, the new year starts in early September, when summer ends, kids go back to school, the new academic year begins and the change of seasons is most felt. Why not have that be the start of the New Year?

As an aside, TigerBlog's people have been on this for years, more than 5,700 to be exact.

TB has always figured that somebody arbitrarily made January the first month on the calendar, perhaps an early printer or someone like that, and it just stuck from there.

TigerBlog did know that the Julian calendar from Julius Caesar's time was 365 days long and had a leap day every fourth year and that that calendar was upgraded by Pope Gregory XIII back in the 16th century to the more modern Gregorian calendar.

The reason for this is that the Earth actually takes 11 minutes less than 365.25 days to make one complete revolution around the sun, and over the years it was starting to affect the equinox, which is what Easter was based on. The Gregorian calendar makes the correction so that there is no leap year in years divisible by 100, except for those divisible by 400, which is why there was a leap day in 2000 but won't be one in 2100.

Okay, TigerBlog knew the first part about the two calendars. He got the second part from Wikipedia.

Still, none of that answered the question of why January was first. A quick search gave some answers, and the one TB liked the most is that the month - which was added to the calendar by Caesar - is named for Janus, a two-headed Roman god who was something of a guard. His two heads faced in different directions, apparently signifying looking backward and ahead, in this case into the new year.

Another answer
shows that January 1 officially became New Year's Day in 1622.

Of course, there are all kinds of different calendars, including the Princeton Athletics one, which is radically different than basically any other.

In fact, while the majority of college winter teams are getting ready to head into the heart of their schedules, Princeton is about to enter the oddest portion of its athletic year.

Because of Princeton's exam schedule, which has first semester finals after the holidays, athletics at Princeton will stop for two full weeks after this week. Because there are very few athletic events in late December, there are usually huge gaps in schedules for winter teams.

The most drastic is in squash, which has a 52-day break between its early season matches and the mad dash once the schedule resumes in late January.

For today, let's look at hockey, which just happens to have a doubleheader today at Baker Rink against Quinnipiac as the women play at 1 and the men play at 7.

Princeton's women played their first game on Oct. 22, 10th game on Nov. 19 and 17th game on Dec. 11, which is a stretch of 17 games in 50 days. Since then, a span of 24 days, the Tigers have played just once, on New Year's Eve against Boston College.

Princeton follows its game against Quinnipiac with a trip to St. Lawrence and Clarkson this weekend - and then 20 more days off for exams.

As for the men, they are riding a five-game winning streak, one that saw them win on Dec. 4 against St. Lawrence, sweet UMass-Lowell on consecutive nights a week later, not play for 18 days, win the UConn tournament on consecutive nights and now return home to play Quinnipiac.

After this, it's another home weekend, Friday night against Cornell and Sunday afternoon against Colgate - and then 16 more days off. It'll be, by the way, Princeton's third gap in its schedule of at least 10 days.

The ECAC has the top-ranked women's team (Cornell) and men's team (Yale), and the Princeton men are currently sort of tied for first with the Bulldogs on the men's side with nine points.

Princeton, though, has played nine league games, three more than the Bulldogs. In fact, ECAC teams have played as few as six games or as many as 10, and it's hard to get a real handle on where the standings are until that starts to balance itself out by the end of the month.

Still, Princeton's three pre-break games are huge, as they're all at home against teams who are a combined 6-14-2 in the league. At the same time, Princeton is unlikely to be taking anything for granted, not with its travel partner here followed by perennial powers Cornell and Colgate.

There will be 18 league men's games played while Princeton is on exam break. After that, it's a complete sprint to the finish, not only in men's hockey but in all Princeton sports.

It's just how the calendar works around here. January is the first month of the year, and also the strangest.


Kevin Faulkner said...

Sorry but the month of January named after the god Janus was NOT added by Caesar,besides which one anyway? but by King Numa. You're probably confusing the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar from whom the month of July is named and Augustus from where the month of August is named.

Kevin Faulkner said...

Janus is NOT two-headed but is portrayed having two faces on his single head.