New Millennium? NOT!

When does the 3rd Millennium and the 21st Century start?

A millennium is an interval of 1000 years and a century is an interval of 100 years. In the Gregorian Calendar, which we use, there is no year zero and the sequence of years near the start runs as follows;

..., 3BC, 2BC, 1BC, 1AD, 2AD, ...

Because there is no year zero, the first year of the calendar ends at the end of the year named 1AD. By a similar argument 100 years will only have elapsed at the end of the year 100AD. Since 2000AD is the 2,000th year of the Christian calendar, it will be the last year of the Second Millennium. So the 3rd Millennium and the 21st Century will begin at the same moment, namely zero hours UTC (Universal Time Coordinates or commonly known as GMT) on January 1st 2001.

I have received many e-mail's regarding the start of the 21st Century. It is interesting to note that this is not the first time that this controversy has arisen. The Times must have received many letters towards the end of 1799, since its editors felt moved to make the following comments about the beginning of the 19th Century:

"We have uniformly rejected all letters and declined all discussion upon the question of when the present century ends, as it is one of the most absurd that can engage the public attention, and we are astonished to find it has been the subject of so much dispute, since it appears plain. The present century will not terminate till January 1, 1801, unless it can be made out that 99 are 100... It is a silly, childish discussion, and only exposes the want of brains of those who maintain a contrary opinion to that we have stated."

The Times, 26 December 1799

The beginning of the Gregorian Calendar

The nowadays calendar was first formulated in several inaccurate variations by the Romans based on methods developed by the Babylonians and Egypts. The aim of all these calendars was to harmonize the cycles of the moon and the sun. During Julius Caesar's reign, January was falling in autumn so he ordered Sosigenes to make changes to the calendar. He added 90 days to the year 46 B.C. to make up for the seasonal drift and adjusted the lengths of the months similarly as we know them to be today. He introduced the leap year by adding one day to February every four years. For the present, the leap year regulation was made in the way, that all four years after the 23rd day in February a leap day was laid in, so the 24th February occurred twice. The use of the leap year was an improvement but not entirely accurate. But in the later years, the leap rule was used in the wrong way so that the emperor Augustus corrected the errors in the year 8 B.C. A curious sequel happened on this occasion. Because Augustus reacted with great jealousy to all things previously made and propagated by Julius Caesar, he didn't like Caesar's name in the calendar, namely the today's month of July. Offhandedly he named another month to himself and so the month name August arose. Furthermore, Augustus did not tolerate the fact, that his month of birth (the August) was shorter than Caesar's month in the sense of the periodical sequence of months with 30 and 31 days. Consequently, the month of August got 31 days, too. By reason of this, the number of days in February were reduced to 28 and 29 days, respectively, so the 29th February was designed to be the leap day now.

This calendar is well known under the term Julian calendar and is based on a plain solar year. The nominal length of a solar year (respectively a so-called tropical year) is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. One 366-day year every four years equates to an average Julian year of 365 days and 6 hours, consequently to 365.25 days. This means, every four years, an error of 44 minutes, 56 seconds was accumulated by this kind of calendar calculation. Because of this counting method, the length of the years becomes a bit too long, by more than 11 minutes.

By the 16th century, the vernal equinox occurred around March 11, rather than March 21, by reason of an accumulated error of ten days. The feast of Easter shifted away more and more from the habitual vernal date, which must have always been celebrated on an earlier date. So Pope Gregory XIII introduced the new style calendar in 1582. Thursday, the 4th October 1582, was followed by Friday, the 15th October, by suppressing the ten days between both dates. Moreover, he ordained that years ending in hundreds should not be leap years unless they are divisible by 400. Incidentally, the Gregorian reform compensates by 72 hours (3 days) every 400 years. The actual excess accumulated is 74 hours, 53 minutes and 20 seconds. The error of 2 hours, 53 minutes and 20 seconds every 400 years accumulates to one day in 3323 years. Thereby, the Gregorian year has an average length of 365.2425 days.

But this Gregorian calendar was accepted very slowly by others. Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately. Most Protestant countries on the Continent adopted the new calendar around 1700. England and the American colonies changed in 1752, by act of Parliament. Orthodox Christian countries adopted the Gregorian calendar later. Russia was the last European country to do so, after the communist revolution of 1917. As a result, the U.S.S.R. celebrates the October Revolution (happened on October 25th, 1917) in the old style calendar on November 7th.

Up to now, China was the last country to change over its chronology, conforming with the Gregorian calendar in 1949. The era of a world wide uniform calendar is already part of history today. The Iran returned to the traditional Mohammedan moon calendar in 1979 after removal of the Shah reign. There are some efforts to improve our currently valid Gregorian calendar. Its disadvantages are the fact, that an appointed day is not always on the same week day. Besides, the month lengths are not equal and the holidays which have relations to the feast of Easter, are moved within the calendar from one year to another. A very sophisticated suggestion was proposed by the United Nations, but the international establishment of this suggestions has failed, since it was resisted by some countries as well as the churches.

Week Day and Month Names of the Gregorian Calendar

Week Day Names of the Gregorian Calendar

The seven day week divided the Roman solar calendar subordinate to the seven planetary gods whose movements were believed to regulate the universe. Weekday names are a translated version of the same Latin identifier. Expansion of the Roman Empire into Northern Europe combined Norse and Anglo-Saxon religious astrology. Each of the seven heavenly bodies known: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, are represented in the modern Gregorian Calendar week. Earth was thought to be the center of the early solar system. The seven wandering stars helped perpetuate the esteemed seven day week.

Sunday is the Christian Sabbath and the first day of the week. Named after the Sun, Sunday translates from the Latin dies solis, or day of the sun.
Monday is the second day of the week. Named after the Moon, or month, Monday translates from the Latin dies lunae, or day of the moon.
Tuesday is the third day of the week. Tuesday is named for the day of Tiw, or Tiu, which was old Teutonic (Anglo-Saxon) deity. Tiu identifies with the Norse god of war and sky, Tyr, and from the Latin dies Martis. Translated to Mar's day, the Roman planetary god of war is indicated.
Wednesday is the fourth day of the week. The day of Woden is named for the chief Norse god. Old English spells the word as Odin. Translated from the Latin dies Mercuii, or day of Mercury, the name refers to the planetary god of Roman mythology.
Thursday is the fifth day of the week. The day of Thor is named for the Norse god, and is translated from the Latin dies Jovis, or the day of Jove. Jove compares to the Roman planetary god Jupiter, and the Greek god Zues.
Friday is the sixth day of the week. The Norse goddess Frigg, or Frigga, names that day. Frigg was the wife of Wodin, or Odin, and the goddess of marriage. The Latin translation is dies Veneris, or the day of Venus.
Saturday is the Jewish Shabbat, or Sabbath. Beginning just before sunset on Friday, and continuing until the same time on Saturday, the seventh day of the week ends the Jewish week. Saturday is translated from the Latin dies Saturni, or the day of Saturn. In Roman mythology, Saturn was the planetary god of agriculture.

Month Names of the Gregorian Calendar

January is the first month of the Roman Calendar year. January is named after the god Janus in Roman mythology. Janus was a god of portals and beginnings, and had two faces to see opposite directions. All 10 months of the original Roman year used the sexigesimal 36 day length of month. The 10 months were shortened to alternate 31 days with 30 days per month. January was shortened from 36 days to 31 days with the advent of the Julian Calendar.

February is the second month of the Roman Calendar year. Translated from the Latin Februarius Mensis, the month of purification is aptly described. A Roman purificatory festival was celebrated on February 15. The sexigesimal 36 day length of month in the original Roman year of 10 months, adds 36 days during January to place February 15 on the 51st day of the former Roman year. Jewish Calendar influence relates the purification festival to the Feast of First Fruits following the 50 day interval between the day after Passover starting and Shav'ot. Under the original Julian Calendar, February had 29 days assigned with leap day adding the 30th day. Augustus Caesar shortened February to 28 days, or 29 days in leap years.

March is the third month of the Roman Calendar year. Martius mensis is the month named after the planetary god of war, Mars. March has 31 days and once alternated with the initial 30 day leap year length of February.

April is the fourth month of the Roman Calendar year. The month of April begins with the Latin prefix Ap, or ad ; implying to, toward, and as to. Aprilis mensis once returned the alternating sequence to 30 days. The war god Mars equates to the Greek god Ares, or Aries. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, which begins by general consent at the spring equinox.

May is the fifth month of the Roman Calendar year. Maius mensis was named after the goddess of growth and springtime plants. May complements April, reverting to 31 days.

June is the sixth month of the Roman Calendar year. Junius mensis was named after the Roman Junii, or gens. These names stem from several subdivided families of a house, or clan that share a common ancestor. June alternates with May to provide 30 days.

July is the seventh month of the Roman Calendar year. Julius mensis was inserted by Julius Caesar under the original Julian Calendar. July reciprocates with June to add 31 days in the year.

August is the eighth month of the Roman Calendar year. Augustus mensis inserted by Augustus Caesar under the modified Julian Calendar. August was lengthened from 30 days to 31 days by removing one day from February. The month named after Augustus became the same length as the month named for Julius, or 31 days.

September was the seventh month of the former Roman Calendar year. September was changed to the ninth month of the Julian Calendar year following the additions of July and August. By the Julian Calendar, September has always been assigned 30 days.

October was the eighth month of the former Roman Calendar year. October became the tenth month of the Julian Calendar year following the additions of July and August. October of the Julian Calendar alternates endings with September, and has always been given 31 days.

November was the ninth month of the former Roman Calendar year. November became the eleventh month of Julian Calendar year following the additions of July and August. November has always been assigned 30 days.

December was the tenth month of the former Roman Calendar year. December became the twelfth month of the Julian Calendar year following the additions of July and August. The last day of the year, December 31, has always been an intercalary day, even when the Romans used planetary gods to name the seven days of the week. December provides 31 days that alternate with 30 days in November.

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