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The ins and outs of calendar years

POSTED: December 29, 2013 1:00 a.m.

New Year’s Day is the one day we can all observe. While there are Chinese, Hebrew and Muslim calendars, if we participate with the world, the clock starts over at the strike of midnight on the first day of the New Year.

Or does it?

Set your calendars back to 1752 when the British began using the Gregorian calendar. The calendar is named for Pope Gregory XIII who actually implemented his calendar in 1582.

The British did not adopt the calendar until 1751 and started using it in September 1752. That’s when they carved out 11 days in September. If you were in England or one of the colonies, which included us, you went to bed on Wednesday, Sept. 2, and woke up the next morning and it was Thursday, Sept. 14.

That’s like daylight saving time on steroids.

The Russians did not begin observing the Gregorian calendar until the revolution in 1918. Turkey did not start until 1932.

Before that we were observing the Julian calendar, named for Julius Caesar, who came up with the idea in 45 BC.

The Gregorian calendar differs from the solar year by 45 seconds, which means we will add a day every 3,323 years. If by some miracle they find some way to extend life that long, you can celebrate your 3,323rd birthday a day early. Make a note of that.

And, what the heck, if you put 3,224 candles on it, no one will notice. Just figure, your grandkids will be somewhere north of 3,100 years old.

Now, the old calendar marked Christmas on Jan. 6. That’s when the modern church calendar now observes Epiphany. There are 12 days between Dec. 25 and Jan. 6 and thus, we have the 12 days of Christmas.

But the one thing about Jan. 1 is the calendar starts over for so many things, like birthdays and taxes.

If you die on Dec. 31, you will have 2013 on your tombstone, but die a day later, and you get 2014.

We used to sing “Auld Lang Syne” at the beginning of the New Year. In some places, like New York, they have replaced it with “New York, New York.” “Auld Lang Syne” asks the rhetorical question of whether we should forget old friendships.

New Year’s is a great time to think about old friendships.

I had some good friends growing up who I haven’t seen or heard from in years. I have a friend, Greg Mauldin, with whom I renewed my acquaintance on Facebook. But there are other friends, like Sonny, Steve, Gene and another Steve who I haven’t heard from in years. I think I’m going to listen to that old song and find those lads and drink a toast of kindness.

It’s a day to reflect on good times that bring us happiness. It’s a day to remember our departed loved ones. Not the way they left us, but when they were young and vibrant and gave us much joy.

And yes, it is a day to resolve to travel new paths: ones marked by kindness, more exercise and less food.

Oh, you thought I’d write a New Year’s column and not mention those last two?

Happy New Year!

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.


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