I’d forgotten - until yesterday - that the epic post on calendars and blue moons, on the Panic blog, had made me think about doing a post about the changes in New Years. So, before 2010 properly gets going (with most people going back to work tomorrow), I thought I’d try and get this out while it’s still topical.
You’d think the concept of a new year was straightforward. After all, it’s right there: the date is 1/1 (whether you’re European or American), and given we don’t use 0 for dates¹, that’s the first day of the year, right? Well, yes, it is now, for a good chunk of the world’s population. It wasn’t always.
Readers of Pepy’s Diary will know that; indeed, the entry for 1st January 1666/1667 bears two dates. Until the UK changed to the Julian calendar in 1752, the first day of the year was on the Feast of the Annunciation, Lady Day, marking the occasion of Mary’s meeting with the Angel Gabriel. Before then, dates for the first third of the year carry both the date of the Julian and Gregorian year. The British tax year still starts on this date, with (complicated) adjustments for the days lost when the calendar changed.
That’s not the only “new year”, though. Parliamentary years start with the State Opening, in November (or, occasionally) December; the Catholic and Anglican liturgical year also starts in December. Meanwhile the academic year starts after harvest in September. (Australia’s also starts in late summer.) Admittedly, none of those has as much legal force as the calendar or tax year, but still, I thought them worth mentioning.
That’s just in the UK, of course. There are two other obvious major world calendars, both lunar. The Chinese new year (also celebrated in Korea and Vietnam, but not Japan, which swapped to the Western calendar in 1873) is based on a lunar-solar calendar, so it moves around, but not much: it’s defined as the second new moon after the winter solstice, fixing it to a date between 21 January and 21 February (with thanks to this PDF, which did all the sums for me).
Meanwhile, the Hijri calendar, used by Muslims, is a pure lunar calendar, with nothing fixing it to the solar year. As a result, the Islamic new year shifts by either 11 or 12 days a year, moving through the Western calendar every 30 years or so. Even more alarmingly for those used to the rigid certainty of solar reckoning, the first day doesn’t happen until the new moon is officially sighted: this can shift the start of the year back a day, in theory at least. In 2009, the first day of Muharram, the first month, was on 18 December.
I’m not even going to try and explain the various Indian new year’s days, except to note that most of them seem to be around the northern hemisphere spring equinox.
So, happy new year, unless you’re Islamic, in which case, belated happy new year, or Asian, in which case, it’ll soon by new year, unless you’re Japanese, in which case: happy new year.
Another year, and another set of Victoria line closures are announced. Unlike the last two years, there aren’t any evening early closures; the major works needed for the new rolling stock (due to be rolled out during the next three years) are presumably done now. However, there’s still more work to come:
The work is the first part of an eight-year overhaul of the line costing hundreds of millions of pounds, which will include new signalling, trains and refurbished stations.
According to a Transport for London (TfL) survey, three quarters of the 100 Waltham Forest passengers asked said the distress caused by engineering works is “worth the long term gains” in terms of getting better quality services.
So, when are the works? TfL publish a PDF of track closures for the forthcoming closures, but they also push them to whatever feed the tubevictoria twitter bot follows. When I saw that update today, I also copied the events over to the Google calendar of closures I’ve been maintaining for a while.
However, Google don’t exactly make it easy to find out that, as well as an embeddable HTML widget, they also provide XML and ICS feeds, the latter suitable for import into Apple’s iCal, Outlook and various other web calendaring applications. So I thought I’d mention them here.
At some point, I might try and work on parsing the PDF (and its twin detailing station closures) and update a single calendar file for all lines, but for now, it’s edited manually, so please don’t rely on it.