Monday, January 14, 2008

Julian Calendar New Year

Today marks Jan 1 on the Julian liturgical calendar. It means that it is technically, the beginning of another calendar year. So it would be proper to say that this is Julian New Years' Day.

In pre-Soviet in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe, people still observed this day as a new year festivity, until the last century. Although the Gregorian or "new" calendar was promulgated for the Catholic world by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 (with the bull, Inter gravissimas), not all countries adopted this calculation as the civil calendar. In fact, it took quite some time for many places to "make the switch."

The British Empire, did not adopt the Gregorian reckoning until 1752, China in 1912 and Greece not until 1923. The Russian Empire, which dominated Ukraine for centuries, much in allegiance to Orthodox practice, did not institute the use of the new calendar. This did not happen there until the October revolution of 1917.

Needless to say, there are many astronomical differences that led to the creation of the Gregorian calendar. It was first proposed by first proposed by the Calabrian doctor Aloysius Lilius, before being decreed by the Pope. Contrary to popular misbelief, Gregory XIII did not "create" the Gregorian calendar.

In general, Orthodox countries were slow to adopt the new usage, and a good number of national churches remain with the complete Julian calendar. Pascha or Easter, for Orthodox is always calculated using the Julian method, with the exception of the Church of Finland.

It's a matter than can set one's head spinning to the point of headache, trying to understand why and how the various calendars of the world differ. Let it suffice to say that I don't expect the Ukrainian or other Slavic churches to make a change anytime soon. I am not convinced that this would even be desirable.

It should be noted that in Ukraine, both the Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches use the Julian calendar exclusively. While Jan 14 may not longer bear the "new year" label, it is none the less a festivity.

Today is also the holyday of Christ's Circumcision & Naming (eight days after his birth) and of St. Basil the Great. It is known as the "Druhiy Praznik" or second holyday in the sequence of winter celebrations (the third will be the Baptism of Jesus).

So, happy new year for those Julian merrymakers and more importantly, "Happy Names' Day" to all who are called Basil (Vasyl in Ukrainian; Bill, William are some questionable English interpretations). God grant you all many years. Na Mnohaya i blahaya lita!

For more info, see: Development of the Gregorian Calendar

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