Happy New Year everyone! 2012 is starting out with a bang for me. On January 30th, Mask of the Gladiator, my novella set in ancient Rome will be released. In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve pulled together a few fun historical New Years facts for your reading pleasure. So grab a noisemaker and raise a glass of champagne to New Years and new books!Are you still lamenting that at the stroke of midnight you did nothing more than watch the ball drop on TV? Well, if you were living in early ancient Rome, you’d still have time to plan a big bash since New Year fell on March 1st. The move to January 1st didn’t take place until 46B.C. when Julius Caesar introduced a new solar-based calendar. While his calendar solved a number of time-based math problems which led to date drift, it didn’t solve them all. One day, this would lead to Britain being out of whack with the rest of Europe but more about that later.
Speaking of moveable celebrations, Wep-renpet was Ancient Egypt's New Year. The feast date was calculated based on the rising of the star Sirius and the annual flooding of the Nile and could vary from year to year. Judging from tomb paintings and a few choice papyri passages, it seems the Egyptians rang in the New Year by partying like it was 1999 B.C.
While on the subject of parties, people in the Middle Ages partied like it was 999. January 1st marked the Feast of the Circumcision which the common people celebrated as the Feast of Fools. During this celebration, which had its roots in the old Roman Saturnalia, people mocked the church by appointing a Lord of Misrule and behaving very badly. The Parisians were the worst behaved of all, and because of them, the annual celebration was banned in 1451. Is it any wonder New Years is so closely linked with champagne?
And, like the year, we come full circle back to the Julian calendar. At one time, Britain marked the New Year in March while the rest of Europe pulled out the party hats on January 1st. The disparity began in 1582 when the protestant Henry VIII refused to switch to the newly updated, fresh off the Guttenberg printing presses Gregorian calendar. This decision, coupled with date drift, resulted in the New Year falling in March. Realizing it was no fun partying alone, Britain finally relented and adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1751.I hope you enjoyed this brief trip through historic New Year celebrations. While you’re opening and hanging up your new calendars, don’t forget to mark the January 30th release of Mask of the Gladiator. Until then, have a great January everyone!