When Is the Beginning of the New Year?


Most people looking at the image above would readily recognize the calendar.  What is interesting is that this same calendar is used by much of the world in order to transact business, if nothing else.

It might interest you to know that it hasn’t always been this way.  Where did the modern calendar come from?  Why do the Christian Orthodox (aka, Eastern Byzantine) churches keep a different calendar?  Why has the Catholic Church had such a vested interest in maintaining it?

Why Start New Year in Middle of Winter?

Growing up, things like time and clocks fascinated me to a certain degree.  I would even take apart clocks and try, usually unsuccessfully as I recall, to put them back together.

I was curious why people would say that the day was starting when they got up when the date changed in the middle of the night.  I would ask, and no one really seemed to know, but I got some interesting suppositions.  Likewise, why start the year in the middle of winter?  You ever notice that “winter” occurs well after when the meteorological winter snow had already fallen?

The interesting thing is that people do these things unthinkingly, simply following what they’ve always been taught.  In fact, it could well be that many ancient Romans had no idea why the 12th hour occurred either in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, and not all regions held to the same custom.

The Roman calendar actually originally only had ten months.  The months September through December actually reflect the Latin for 7 through 10.  January and February were originally filler months thrown in until spring could arrive.  Oddly enough, the Roman calendar originally started in the spring!

In fact, down through history, many countries kept various calendars.  Notice what Calendars Through the Ages says about the “History of Our Calendar“:

Has the year always started on 1 January?

In some ways, yes. When Julius Caesar introduced his calendar in 45 B.C.E., he made 1 January the start of the year, and it was always the date on which the Solar Number and the Golden Number were incremented.

However, the church didn’t like the wild parties that took place at the start of the new year, and in C.E. 567 the council of Tours declared that having the year start on 1 January was an ancient mistake that should be abolished.

Through the middle ages various New Year dates were used….

Choosing the right interpretation of a year number is difficult, so much more as one country might use different systems for religious and civil needs.

The Byzantine Empire used a year starting on 1 Sep, but they didn’t count years since the birth of Christ, instead they counted years since the creation of the world which they dated to 1 September 5509 B.C.E.

Since about 1600 most countries have used 1 January as the first day of the year. Italy and England, however, did not make 1 January official until around 1750.

In England (but not Scotland) three different years were used:

The historical year, which started on 1 January.

The liturgical year, which started on the first Sunday in advent.

The civil year, which

from the 7th to the 12th century started on 25 December,

from the 12th century until 1751 started on 25 March,

from 1752 started on 1 January.

– See the Calendar Act of 1751.

In 1752, England changed to the Gregorian Calendar, and at that time they changed to starting the year on 1 January.  Scotland, however, changed the start of the year 152 years earlier, independent of the Gregorian reforms.

However, the Gregorian reforms did re-establish 1 January as the officially sanctioned start of the year by Rome in 1582.  Ironically, they were so concerned about disturbing the liturgical calendar that they waited until they no longer had the power and influence they once did due to the Protestant reformation, so it was several years before much of the world aligned themselves with this new calendar.

Again, Calendars states:

Protestant tract writers responded to Gregory’s calendar by calling him the “Roman Antichrist” and claiming that its real purpose was to keep true Christians from worshiping on the correct days. The “new” calendar, as we know it today, was not adopted uniformly across Europe until well into the 18th century.

There is a double irony here, seeing as the assumption is that they were keeping the correct holy days to begin with!

However, the Orthodox Church never changed.  They had long split off from Rome.  That’s why on some calendars you’ll see well into January (the 7th, to be precise) some annotation like “Nativity (Orthodox)”.  It should be noted that Pope Gregory dropped 10 days in order to align the calendar, but 7 January is obviously more than 10 days from 25 December.  That should show how much drift there was between then and now.  In fact, by the time England joined the Gregorian Calendar, they had to drop 11 days instead of only 10.

Why January?

The calendar year originally began on 1 March, as is shown by the names of the six months following June (Quintilis = fifth month, Sextilis = sixth month, September = seventh month, etc.). It is not known when the start of the calendar year was changed to 1 January. Ancient authors attributed it to Numa Pompilius. Varro states that, according to M. Fulvius Nobilior (consul in 189 BC), who had composed a commentary on a fasti preserved in the temple of Hercules Musarum, January was named after Janus because the god faced both ways, which implies the calendar year started in January in his time, before the consular year started beginning on 1 January in 153 BC. A surviving calendar from the late Republic proves the calendar year started in January before the Julian reform.

~ Wikipedia, “Roman calendar

There may have been additional reasons for moving the beginning of the year to the middle of winter.  In most pagan religions, the winter solstice was considered a holy day, including ancient England.  The calendar was purposefully designed over time so that 25 December was the winter solstice.  It was the time just ahead of the worst of winter, and often animals were killed rather than having to feed them during the winter.  In addition, being the shortest day of the year, longer days were ahead, and various gods and goddesses were supposed to be resurrected and bring the sun/warmth/spring back with them.

In short, the calendar was often arbitrary and tied not only to agriculture but to politics and religion as well.

Catholic Investment in Pagan Calendars

That last point shouldn’t be ignored.  The origins of the modern calendar are pagan, but even worse it was carefully crafted to time pre-Christian holy days.  The entire thing was concocted in order to accommodate the worship of various pagan gods and goddesses!

The Catholic Church co-opted several pagan festivals and “Christianized” them.  If you think that is acceptable, then perhaps you should check out “The World’s Holidays: Satan’s Counterfeits“, and ask yourself, “Should I worship God the way He wants me to?”

How does God want to be worshiped?

29 Once the Lord your God has removed from before you all the nations that you are entering and taking possession of, and you have displaced them and are living in their land, 30 then watch yourself! Don’t be trapped by following their practices after they’ve been wiped out before you. Don’t go investigating their gods, thinking, How did these nations worship their gods? I want to do the very same thing!

31 Don’t act like they did toward the Lord your God because they did things for their gods that are detestable to the Lord, which he hates. They even burned their own sons and daughters with fire for their gods!

32 Everything I’m commanding you, you must do it with utmost care! Don’t add anything to it or take anything away from it.

Dt 12:29-32 (CEB)

We have to remember: He is God, and we are not.  That may seem obvious, but when you listen to the reasoning behind disobedience, what does it always boil down to?  “I think”, “I believe” and “I don’t want to be different.”  You can hear it from those in the world, and you can especially hear it from COG critics.

We each need to decide: Do we worship God to please Him or please ourselves?

So, given that pagan calendars that were fixed for pagan holidays to honor pagan gods, should we celebrate “New Year’s Eve/Day”?

When Does the Biblical Calendar Begin?

2014 is an interesting year, for the first month of the Jewish calendar begins at sundown before 1 April.  That means the calendar numbers of the Gregorian Calendar match the days of the month of the first month on the Jewish Calendar.  14 Nissan aligns with 14 April, for example.  The difference is that Jewish days are reckoned from sundown to sundown rather than midnight to midnight.

Why?  Why does it start in the spring rather than the middle of winter?

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month will be the first month; it will be the first month of the year for you.

Ex 12:1-2 (CEB)

Afterwards, God gives instructions for the first recorded Passover.  God gave a way for Moses and Israel to reckon time, and He specifically told them when the year began.

From the instructions He gave and were passed down through ancient Israel and later the Jews, we have a working calendar to keep the days that God ordained.

Did He only ordain them for ancient Israel?  The answers can be shocking!

First and foremost, there were ten lost tribes of Israel.  Since most people don’t read their Bibles, they are totally unaware that the Kingdom of israel split into two nations: The House of Judah to the south, and the House of Israel to the north.  Each were invaded at different times.  In fact, each were invaded more than once.  Some Israelites drifted to Judah, both right after Jeroboam son of Nebat started putting up idols, and some after various invasions.  However, the majority who identified themselves as “Israelite” were captured, carried away and never returned!

The House of Israel pretty much lost their identity in one of two ways: The majority were put into new lands, forced to learn new languages and customs and lost their identity.  The rest were absorbed into the House of Judah and identified themselves as “Jewish”.

Because the northern kingdom lost its identity and wandered off, you might be an Israelite and not even know it!

Second, and more importantly, God says these are His feasts that the calendar He gave Moses determines.

23 The Lord said to Moses: 2 Speak to the Israelites and say to them: These are my appointed times, the Lord‘s appointed times, which you will declare to be holy occasions:

Lev 23:1-2 (CEB)

Third, like the Sabbath, these were determined from the very beginning.

14 God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will mark events, sacred seasons, days, and years. 15 They will be lights in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened. 16 God made the stars and two great lights: the larger light to rule over the day and the smaller light to rule over the night. 17 God put them in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was.

Ge 1:14-18 (CEB)

God made the heavenly bodies to mark time.  Specifically, to set “events”, or signs that point to something (days to keep), “sacred seasons”, mow’eds or “set feasts“!  In fact, when Leviticus 23:2 says God says these are His feasts, it is the word mow’ed!

From the beginning, we God creating signs for His feast days and His Sabbaths!

All calendars to some degree use the heavenly bodies to determine time.  God gave Moses instructions for how to determine His feast days, and He instructed Moses that the year begins in the spring — not the middle of winter!


Obviously, we cannot control what others do, let alone entire societies.  We have to live, eat, work and play, and that very often requires coordination.  We have no choice but to use the calendar the rest of the world uses for secular events.

However, when it comes to worship and honoring pagan gods, the Bible makes it quite clear.  We are not to keep the worship habits of the pagans.  That includes keeping “New Year’s Day”.

In fact, the Bible never mandates celebrating the beginning of the year, no matter how demarcated.  Even the first month of the Hebrew Calendar is not a holy day.

However, it does show God starts the new year at the awakening of spring, when hope begins to run high.  His holy days outline His plan in symbols rich and deep in meaning, whereas the pagan holidays are a patchwork of conflicting signs and symbols (much like their gods and goddesses), and the “Christianizing” of them only exacerbates the confusion.

33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints,

1Co 14:33 (ESV)

The question is whether or not we believe God.  Will we obey Him completely and transparently?  Or, will we like Adam and Eve do what we want and blame someone else and make excuses?



  1. John,
    May you and your readers have a wonderful and fulfilling upcoming Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread and upcoming year.