August is the eighth month in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars and is one of the seven months that has thirty-one days. One the old Roman calendar it was the sixth month and originally called Sextilis (on that calendar March was the first month of the new year). By the time of Julius Caesar, January and February had been added to the calendar. Caesar added two days when he created the Julian calendar in 46 BC giving it the modern length of thirty-one days. It was renamed in 8 BC to honor the Emperor Augustus. August also entered the vocabulary as well. To call someone august meant they were distinguished or renowned. The same would apply if you applied it to an institution or government body as well.
August in the northern hemisphere is a time when the bounty of the season is often at its fullest (below the equator it is still winter). The birthstones are peridot and onyx, and the birth flower the poppy. For those who like to watch the stars, the Perseid meteor shower which usually occurs between July 17 and August 24. They are often the most visible between August 9 to August 13. The best time to view is usually the pre-dawn hours though you can sometimes see them earlier as well. Another fun fact to know is the Dog Days of Summer (which began on July 3) comes to an end on August 11.
Also, in August we notice, slowly at first, that the days are starting to get a little shorter. At the beginning of the month, you can have up to 14 hours of daylight. By August 31 though, it has shrunk to 13 hours. The sunset that occurred perhaps at 8:17 pm on the first day of August is now just under 7:40 am at the end. Conversely sunrise is getting later resulting in darker early mornings unlike in June or July.
July is the seventh month on both the Gregorian and Julian calendars. On the old Roman calendar, it was the fifth month since the new year did not start till March. It was called Quintillis until it was renamed July in honor of Julius Caesar. This occurred in 45 BC when the Julian calendar was adopted and January became the first month of the new year. In the Northern Hemisphere it is considered one of the warmest months of the year. Conversely it is considered one of the coldest months in the Southern Hemisphere where it is winter. The symbols for July are the ruby (birthstone) and Larkspur or Water Lilly for the flower.
June is the sixth month on the Gregorian calendar. It is named for the Roman god Juno. Juno was the equivalent of the Greek god Hera, though with a few differences. Like Hera, Juno was the wife and sister of Jupiter (the Roman version of Zeus, king of the gods). Juno was the protector of the nation and watched over women. On the old Roman calendar, June was usually the fourth month as their new year started in March. June has 30 days.
June is also the month that has the most sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. The summer solstice (winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere) takes place during the month. It is a month of celebrations and weddings are very popular during this month. During Roman times getting married during the month of June was considered lucky and has become traditional since then as the month for preferred weddings.
The June symbols are pearl, alexandrite and moonstone for the birthstones, with the rose and honeysuckle for the flowers. Although officially summer does not begin until the solstice, for commercial and agricultural purposes summer begins when the month begins.
May is the fifth month on the current Gregorian and the old Julian calendar. It is named for the Greek goddess Maia. On the old Roman calendar, this was the third month. May has 31 days. The full moon in May is sometimes called the Flower Moon since many flowers bloom during this month.
May is commonly associated with spring in the Northern Hemisphere but autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Usually, it is also the time that plants begin to grow. It is a time for many festivals and celebrations as well. The ancient Romans had several of them during May and many Europeans today have events during the month. Late May is often considered the beginnings of the summer season in many places.
The May symbols are the emerald (birthstone), along with Lilly of the Valley and Hawthorn as the birth flowers.
March is the third month on both the old Julian and current Gregorian calendar. It is the month that begins spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. March is believed to be derived from the Roman god Mars (Greek equivalent Ares). Before the advent of the Julian calendar, Romans considered March the first month of the new year. The March equinox is usually around March 21-22. Many spring festivals take place in March. Passover and Easter may take place in March, but not always as it is dependent upon very specific calculations and can change from year to year. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17. If it falls on a Friday, Catholics are given dispensation to eat meat on that day (at least in Ireland and in areas where the feast is celebrated). The famous Ides of March (March 15) was once a day to pay debts in Rome but it became infamously associated with the assassination of Julius Caesar on that day in 44 BC.
Daylight savings time begins in the U.S. and Canada on the second Sunday in March. March has two birthstones that reflect courage: aquamarine and bloodstone. The flower for March is the daffodil.
February is the second month on the current Gregorian calendar (and the same on the old Julian). It is the shortest month of the year with 28 days except in leap years when it is 29. The name is derived from Februarius, a purification ritual that was held around 15 February on the old Roman lunar calendar. Until the calendar was reformed under the Julian, January and February were the last two months of the year (although originally there were no months after December as the Romans considered the time a month less period until spring). For the southern hemisphere, the seasons are switched so they are heading towards Autumn so it is the equivalent of August for them.
With shorter number of days, it is the one month that can pass without a full moon (it happened in 2018). There are many fascinating names used during the month such as Snow Moon to indicate snow is on the ground. Some Native American tribes call it the Hunger Moon due to limited food sources during winter.
The February flowers are violet and primrose with amethyst being the birth stone.
January is the first month on the Gregorian and the Julian calendar. It is named after the Roman god of doors, Janus, as this month is a doorway into the new year. Janus is an interesting Roman god as he is two-faced. Thus, he can see both the future and the past. In January, you can see the previous year and view the upcoming one. Prior to the Julian calendar, the calendar was set by lunar rather than solar days. This resulted in problems creeping in and causing confusion. Also, the start of the new year was in March since spring started in that month. This meant that January and February were the last two months of the year on the old Roman calendar.
The problem with the old Roman calendar
Since the calendar relied on lunar rather than solar days, it was three months ahead of the solar based calendar. Which meant if you used one calendar for civic events but the other for your growing season, then obviously problems would arise. Caesar was advised by Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer who helped create the Egyptian solar calendar, to also make the Roman one based on the sun rather than moon. Under his plan, the year was divided into 12 months and each month had either 30 or 31 days. He calculated a solar year as 365 ¼ days. February was the exception by having 28 days and every four years having a leap year to add an extra day. Due to misunderstandings and other issues, it would not come into effect until 8 BC.
Sosigenes calculations turned out later to be off by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. That would seem trivial but, over time, the cumulative effect was a 10 day difference from Caesar’s time. Which meant the calendar was no longer aligned with the solar year and had to be rectified. This caused problems with celebrating holy days that needed to be calculated precisely according to astronomical and other calculations. The drift was noticed in the Middle Ages and calls to correct were made. At the Council of Trent (1545), Pope Paul III was authorized to reform to calendar to allow for a more consistent scheduling of Easter.
While several reforms were suggested, a proposal made by Aloysius Lilius offered a reform that was considered acceptable. His proposal was to reduce the number of leap years in the past (making them common years rather than leap). And then he had an idea of adjusting the phases of the moon (meaning a method to calculate the difference between solar and lunar years) when calculating the annual date of Easter. This had always been a problem in the past and his solution seemed to resolve it.
Gregorian Calendar Introduced
In October 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued the reform of the Julian calendar. It was adopted by the Catholic Church and the Papal States. Since however this was a civic reform, it was up to each nation to decide whether to implement or not. It would gradually be adopted by many countries. Spain was the first to switch over and that included much of Roman Catholic Europe. Protestant countries were not keen on changing right away since the reform was made by the Catholic Church. The British would adopt it 1750 but by a method to avoid saying it was from the Catholic Church. Sweden adopted in 1753. Turkey would switch to using the fiscal year as Gregorian in 1917 and then for the entire calendar in 1926. Russia, under the Communist government, changed in 1918. Greece would change in 1923. Saudi Arabia would formally adopt it in 2016.
Eastern Orthodox denominations decided for religious purposes to use the Julian rather than Gregorian for their liturgical year (separate from the civic calendar). Which is why in countries like Greece or Russia the celebration of Christmas and Easter is currently 13 days after it is celebrated elsewhere.
December is the 12th month on the Gregorian calendar. The name derives from the Latin word decem, which means ten. Originally December was the tenth month in an older calendar as it started in March. Apparently the winter days that followed December were not included in a month until much later when January and February were added. December retained its name though. Anglo-Saxons used the term Yule for December-January, but that now that has largely come to mean December and the Christmas season.
December has the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the summer solstice in the Southern. Winter traditionally begins on the astronomical calendar around 21 December or the date of the actual solstice. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and depending on how far north you live, sunlight may only be for a few hours on that day. The symbols for December are the narcissus flower and turquoise, zircon and tanzanite as the birthstones.
Most Christians celebrate Advent in preparation for the celebration of Christmas on 25 December. Jews celebrate Chanukah/Hanukkah, the 8-day Festival of Lights in December as well. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26-January 1.
November is the 11 month of the year in both the old Julian and current Gregorian calendars. The name is derived from Latin, novem, which means nine. This indicates its position on the early Roman calendar. Depending on your geographic location, it is either late spring in the Southern Hemisphere or late autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.
The symbols for November are the topaz (birthstone that symbolizes friendship), and its flower is the chrysanthemum.
Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day usually on or about January 7 each year. This is due to the fact that Eastern Orthodox follows the Julian calendar rather than Gregorian for liturgical feasts and occasions such as Christmas. So the date on the Julian calendar is December 25 but there is a 13 day difference so on the Gregorian or Western calendar it is January 7.
It is called the Gregorian calendar as Pope Gregory XIII proclaimed it in a Papal Bull in 1582. It was adopted by most Catholic countries but others did not use it right away (some for religious reasons since they were Protestant) and took over 300 years to be fully implemented. Great Britain did not formally adopt it till 1752. Russia adopted it in 1918, Greece in 1923 and Turkey in 1926. The reason for the change was the Julian calendar was not very accurate and had to many leap years. Because of this it would fall out of sync with fixed dates for astronomical events like equinoxes and solstices.
Eastern Orthodox Christians has over 250 million believers in Eastern Europe, Greece, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and United States. Except in countries that are predominately Eastern Orthodox, it is not celebrated as a public holiday.