Would you believe January was not always the first month of the year? The ancient Romans used a different calendar system, and their year began in March and ended in February!

Even though our modern system may be quite different from the ancient Romans’, they gave us something very important: the months’ names.

Let’s take a look at how the ancient Romans chose the names of the 12 months of the year.

March: The ancient Romans insisted that all wars cease during the time of celebration between the old and new years. Since March was the first month of the new year in ancient Rome, some historians believe the Romans named March after Mars, the Roman god of war.

April: Three theories exist regarding the origin of April’s name. Some say April got its name from the Latin word meaning “second” since April was the second month on the ancient calendar. Others claim it comes from “aperire,” a Latin word meaning “to open,” because it represents the opening of buds and flowers in spring. Still others think April was named after the goddess Aphrodite.

May: May was named after Maia, an earth goddess of growing plants.

June: Apparently, June has always been a popular month for weddings! The Romans named June after Juno, the queen of the gods and patroness of marriage and weddings.

July: July was named after Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. Previously, July was called “Quintilis,” which is Latin for “fifth.”

August: August was named after Augustus Caesar in 8 B.C. Previously, August was called “Sextillia,” which was Latin for “sixth.”

Though we think of September, October, November and December as months 9, 10, 11 and 12, these months were 7, 8, 9 and 10 on the ancient Roman calendar. This is how they got their names.

September: September’s name comes from septem, Latin for “seven.”

October: October’s name comes from octo, Latin for “eight.”

November: November’s name comes from novem, Latin for “nine.”

December: December’s name come from decem, Latin for “ten.”

February: Around 690 B.C., Numa Pompilius turned a period of celebration at the end of the year into a month of its own, named after the festival Februa. This is how February got its name.

January: Later, Pompilius added another month to the beginning of the year and named it January after Janus, the God of beginnings and endings.

In 1582, Pope Gregory adjusted the calendar, so most western nations began celebrating the start of the year on January 1. This new calendar became known as the "Gregorian calendar."

However, England and the American colonies continued to celebrate the new year on the date of the spring equinox in March. It was not until 1752 that the British and their colonies finally adopted the Gregorian calendar.

 

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Now that you know how the months got their names, get ready to explore a time-honored tradition inspired by Janus of January. Tomorrow we’ll bid farewell to an old year and welcome the promises of a new one.