Being the 7th of a miscellany of short posts to mark the 12 days of Christmas.
Happy New Year! Tonight we celebrate the coming of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar. For those using the Hebrew calendar, New Year celebrations were in October; for those using the Chinese lunar calendar, New Year awaits us in January.
With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, there are years seasonal and calendrical, fiscal and liturgical, astronomical and academic(al). A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a year by any other name is not The Same, ranging in length by about 21 days (draconitic to sidereal, per Wiki). Astronomical years won’t even stay The Same as themselves, over time: they vary due to the precession of the equinoxes, tidal drag, planetary gravity effects, and changes in the Sun’s ‘effective mass’. None of which do I know much about, nor care to enquire.
Now, I do not normally track the days in the year to two decimal places (like the draconitic, Julian and lunar years), or to a level of precision inviting rounding to a mere four or five decimal places (like the mean tropical, vernal equinox, and Gregorian years). Calendrically, I live more in line with the vague year, which allows 365 days in the year, full stop.
Yet the longer I live—the more years, however defined, under the hood—the less the calendar year means to me. In March, I mark the end of the curling year with the Brier, and the start of the baseball year with spring training. I celebrate the new growing year in stages, with the phased emergence of crocuses, tulips and irises. My birthday year, running from May to May, is assuming new significance as I approach the start-up of public pension plan payouts. The lake year—with a variable start time in July or August—has become a marvelous mid-life addition to the routine. September’s start of the academic year still speaks to the student, parent of students, and instructor that I was for many years, inspiring me to new projects, even to new resolutions. And the autumn colours—coming later and more gloriously here in Ontario than in the Alberta or Saskatchewan of my first 50 years—mark the end of a year more surely than any end-of-December party.
Whether you live more in tune with the regimentation of Gregorian or lunar calendars, with the forces of equinox precession and tidal gravity, or with the cycles of your own seasons, may you find at least one day in each 365.2425 (or so) to look back, to look ahead, and to marvel. And whether that be earlier, now or later—Happy New Year!