From Latin annus, a year is a twelve-month period that begins on January 1 and ends on December 31. The term is also used as a unit of time, to measure the same number of months from any given day. For example: “My daughter will start primary school next year”, “If everything goes well, next year we will travel to Europe”, “I have not taken a vacation for two years”, “Edgardo will just complete his rehabilitation next year ”, “ I was a father for the first time in 1975 ”.
For astronomy, one year is the time it takes the planet Earth to revolve around the sun. The astronomical year lasts exactly 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. The usual calendar of the western world (known as the Gregorian calendar) establishes years of 365 or 366 days.
According to the Gregorian calendar, at the time of publication of this article we are in 2013. This calendar was promoted by Pope Gregory XIII (who gave his name to the scheme) to replace the Julian calendar (established by Julius Caesar and based on the movement of the sun).
Year zero never existed on the Gregorian calendar, but began directly with year one. The beginning of his account coincides with the supposed birth of Jesus Christ, although the historical evidence is contradictory. In any case, the Gregorian calendar allows us to speak of two eras: before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AD). Right now, therefore, we are in 2013 AD.
New Year’s celebration
Every year, on January 1st, we humans celebrate the arrival of the new year in different ways. This celebration, so common in our days, is a relatively young phenomenon; the first record of his celebration dates from 2000 a. C., during the equinox of March. Other civilizations, like the Egyptian, considered that the year began with the autumn equinox, while the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
According to the ancient Roman calendar, the year began exactly on March 1, and the year consisted of ten months. In the names of some of the months as we currently know them, this organization has been implicit: the months from September to December, for us from 9 to 12, were two positions below, from 7 (septem means seven in Latin) to 10 (decem is ten).
Only in the year 153 a. C., also in Rome, the New Year was celebrated for the first time on the first of January. In fact, the month of January was added to the calendar around the year 700 a. C., and its existence is due to Numa Pontiluis, second king of Rome, who also included February. The beginning of the year moved to January because it marked the beginning of the calendar year, it was the month in which the two newly elected Roman consuls began their exercise. It is worth mentioning that it was some time before this date was respected without exceptions.
Julio César presented in 46 a. C. a new calendar, based on the sun, which was a great evolution with respect to the one used by Rome until then, which was guided by the cycles of the moon and was imprecise. It was called Julian and established January 1 as the official date of the beginning of the year.
During the European Middle Ages, New Year-related celebrations were considered pagan and were abolished in 567. On several occasions the festivities were held on December 25. Finally in 1582, the arrival of the Gregorian calendar marked the restoration of January 1 as the first day of the year, although some countries waited a couple of centuries to adopt such changes.