Christmas season ends

It’s time to pack away all your Christmas decorations, remove the Christmas tree, and take down all your Christmas cards. The Christmas season ends today. Today is known as Twelfth Night, and is the end of the twelve days of Christmas.

January 6th is exactly 12 days after Christmas. It is the time when the baby Jesus was visited by three wise men, who were guided to his birthplace by a bright star. It is the traditional end to Christmas.

So pack your decorations away safely into some boxes. Write ‘Xmas (not X’mas) decorations’ on the side of the boxes, and put them in your attic until November 30th this year, when you can unpack them all again.

January

The start of the new year varies from culture to culture. In Western/English culture the new year begins on January 1st. But where is the name January from?

The name January comes from the Roman god Janus (Ianuarius), who was the god of gates and doors; the Latin word for door is ‘ianua’.

Janus was a powerful god, and people said a prayer to Janus before starting something new. The god Janus is always shown with two faces. One face is in the normal position looking into the future, and the other face looks backward to the past, and they can be seen on many Roman coins. January seems a very suitable name for the first month of the new year.

But the original Roman calendar contained no January. It had 10 months and covered 304 days (the winter period had no months). In 713 BC the Roman emperor Numa added the months of January and February and the year had 355 days, which was equal to a lunar (moon) year. However March was still considered the first month of the year until 153 BC when it was changed to January.

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