The Falcon Banner has posted a new item, 'Is It New Year's Day?

January from a Book of Hours (British Library)

Tonight at midnight most of the world will celebrate the new year. But few
of our medieval counterparts used January 1 as the start of the new year.
When your persona marked the change of the year depended on where you
lived, and when.

Are you French, Italian, German, English, Byzantine? Each of these places
celebrated the new year on a different date.

At least seven different calendar styles were used in the Christian West
alone. And to make matters worse, some areas (Spain in particular) would
use one convention for several centuries, change to another, then change to
yet another style a few hundred years later.

Depending on when and where you lived in SCA period, New Year’s Day could

*January 1: Circumcision Style – *extends from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Named for
the Feast of the Circumcision (eight Roman days after Jesus’s birth), this
style, which is nearly universal now, was perhaps the least used style.
Julius Caesar imposed this change on the Roman world with his new calendar
in 46 BC, and many others have tried to implement it at different times
during SCA period. William the Conqueror made January 1 the beginning of
the new year in England, but the people used March 25 for most purposes.

*March 1: Venetian Style –* from March 1 of the given year (2019) to the
last day of February of the subsequent year 2020). Derived from the
pre-Caesarian Roman style, it was used by the Merovingian Franks and was
the official style in Venice until 1797. So for the Venetians, the new year
will not begin for three months.

*March 25: Annunciation Style –* begins the year on March 25 of the
previous year (stilus pisanus 2020) or on March 25 of the given year
(stilus florentinus, mos anglicanus 2019). This was one of the most popular
styles during the Middle Ages. In England, March 25, or Lady Day, still
marked the beginning of the new year for a variety of purposes.

Although they used the Annunciation Style in Pisa, they started counting a
year earlier than everyone else. In other words, the new year might begin
on March 25 in both Pisa and Florence, but in Piza it already would be
2019, and would become 2020 in March, while in Florence it would still be
2018 until March 25, when it would become 2019.

*Easter Style – *Begins the year on the movable feast of Easter Sunday of
the given year. Sometimes the year is too short, and other times too long.
This year would run from Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 to Holy Saturday,
April 11, 2020. Because Easter can fall on a day somewhere between March 22
and April 25, there is a possibility a date could occur twice in one year.
The two dates had to be distinguished by marking them “after Easter” and
“before Easter.” This style was the most popular one in France.

*September 1: Byzantine Style – *extends from September 1 of the previous
year (2018) to August 31 of the given year (2019), in accordance with the
Byzantine use of dating from the creation of the world.

This style was used by areas influenced by Constantinople, particularly
during early period. Since Justinian’s time it was the day taxes were due.

*September 24: Indictio Bedana –* extends from September 24 of the previous
year (2018) to September 23 of the given year (2019). Introduced by
England’s “Venerable” Bede during the late 8th century, it was never used
in that country, although later it was widely used on the Continent,
especially in Germany and by the Imperial chancellery. It uses a date near
the fall equinox, rather than the spring equinox, for the beginning of the

*December 25: Christmas Style – *extends from December 25 of the previous
year (2018) to December 24 of the given year (2019). This is the style most
widely used in the Middle Ages. It is the style that held sway during
Anglo-Saxon England’s era, as well as being the New Year of choice for
parts of France and Spain for 200 years.

Completely confused? You’re not alone. Historian Reginald Poole gave the
following example:

“If we suppose a traveler to set out from Venice on March 1, 1245, the
first day of the Venetian year, he would find himself in 1244 when he
reached Florence; and if after a short stay he went on to Pisa, the year
1246 would already have begun there. Continuing his journey westward, he
would find himself again in 1245 when he entered Provence, and on arriving
in France before Easter (April 21) he would be once more in 1244. This
seems a bewildering tangle of dates.”

The easiest way to determine how your persona would have dated the year is
to use the online Calendar Utility created and maintained by Dr. Otfried
Lieberknecht at: *
<>. This is an amazingly useful
tool. You can type in a Roman-style date and find out what its modern-style
calendar date is. You can plug in any date and see what its official Roman
calendar date is, along with what year it would be. For example, today is
ii Kalendas (or Primus Kalendas) Januarius (the day before the Kalends of
January) 2018 for me, because my persona is 12th century English. My new
year is nearly four months away.

For those with non-Christian or early period personas, the task of
identifying New Year’s Day can be challenging. In non-Christian parts of
Europe, such as Scandinavia, parts of Germany and eastern Europe, local
pagan customs prevailed. Most celebrated the new year sometime in March,
usually tied to a spring fertility festival, although customs vary widely.

For those with Muslim personas or with personas that lived in Islamic-ruled
areas of Spain or Sicily, tying the Muslim New Year to a Christian calendar
date can be a challenge. Because the Muslims use a strictly lunar calendar,
the Islamic year is only 354 days long. The Islamic new year begins eleven
days earlier each year. It changes months and seasons regularly. Perhaps
someone with a Muslim persona knows of a similar calendar utility to figure
out historical dates. If so, please share.

And while Jewish personas would, of course, celebrate Rosh Hashanah in
September, they most likely would keep secular records the same way others
in their area did.

So to all of you, Happy New Year – sometime this year.

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