Today in History: January 1

By | January 1, 2016
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January 1 is the first day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 364 days remaining until the end of the year (365 in leap years).
New Year’s Day in the Gregorian calendar.

During the Middle Ages under the influence of the Catholic Church, many countries in western Europe moved the start of the year to one of several important Christian festivals—December 25 (the birth of Jesus), March 1, March 25 (the Annunciation), or even Easter. Eastern European countries (most of them under the influence of the Orthodox Church) began their numbered year on September 1 from about 988.

In England, January 1 was celebrated as the New Year festival, but from the 12th century to 1752 the year in England began on March 25. So, for example, the Parliamentary record notes the execution of Charles I as occurring on January 30, 1648, (since the year did not end until March 24), although modern histories adjust the start of the year to January 1 and record the execution as occurring in 1649.

Most western European countries changed the start of the year to January 1 before they adopted the Gregorian calendar. For example, Scotland changed the start of the Scottish New Year to January 1 in 1600. England, Ireland and the British colonies changed the start of the year to January 1 in 1752. Later that year in September, the Gregorian calendar was introduced throughout Britain and the British colonies. These two reforms were implemented by the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750.

January 1 became the official start of the year as follows:

1362 — Grand Duchy of Lithuania
1522 — Republic of Venice
1544 — Holy Roman Empire (Germany)
1556 — Spain, Portugal
1559 — Prussia, Sweden
1564 — France
1576 — Southern Netherlands
1579 — Duchy of Lorraine
1583 — Northern Netherlands
1600 — Scotland
1700 — Russia
1721 — Tuscany
1752 — Great Britain (excluding Scotland) and its colonies

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