Months of the Year


January, February, March, April, May, June,
July, August, September, October, November, December.

Reading Exercises:

  1. January is named after the Roman god, Janus.

    Janus is shown as having two faces. To some this sybolizes looking back on the old year and forward to the new year. He is the god of the doorways and gates. He is the patron of beginnings and endings.

    By 153 BC, the Romans had moved the new year from the first of March to the first of January. That was when their civil year began and their newly elected consuls assumed office. It was on that day in 390 BC that Rome was captured by the Gauls.

    January followed the winter solstice, after which the days began to lengthen. The break from the farmer's labor that had begun in December, was continued during this month.

  2. February was originally the last month of the year. It is named after "februa," the plural of the Roman word "februum" for purification.

    The Roman festival of purification was held during that month. Originally it was a festival for preparing for the new year as well as for the new planting season. The gods and ancestors had to be pleased so that fertile fields would follow. They, therefore, made atonement or reparations for wrongs done during this month.

  3. March is named after the planet Mars.

    Mars, the god of war but also the protector of crops and the field. The beginning of spring, which signals the time to prepare for planting, occurs during this month. March was the first month of the ancient Roman year, at least until the reforms of 153 BC. It marked both the beginning of the military campaign season and a time of renewal after the winter season.

  4. April is said to be named after Aprilis (Aphrodite) by the Roman poet Ovid. Others say that aprilis comes from the Latin word "aperio" (to open) since this was the month that fruits and flowers blossomed.

    It was a time for several agricultural festivals. In it they sacrifice to Venus (Aphrodite), and the women bathed on the calends (where the word "calendar" comes from), or first day of the month – the new moon, with myrtle garlands on their heads.

  5. May is named after Maia, the goddess of bounty and the mother of Mercury.

    May was a time for work in the fields and anxious expectation of the harvest to follow. Maia is the brightest star in the Pleiades—a star cluster in the constellation Taurus.

  6. June is named after the goddess Juno, the wife and sister of Jupiter.

    Juno is the goddess of marriage. She is the patroness for the well-being of women.

As we can see, the first six months of the year were named for their characteristics, the seasonal activities and deities who presided over them. The other months were named according to their numerical order; so the fifth was called Quintilis, Sextilis the sixth, and the rest, September (Septembris), October (Octobris), November (Novembris) and December (Decembris). Later, Quintilis received the name of Julius (July), from Caesar, and Sextilis that of Augustus, (August) from the second Caesar, who had that title.
  1. July was originally named Quintilis after the fifth month of the Roman civil year which began on March first. It was later named after Julius Caesar.
  2. August was originally named Sextilis after the sixth month of the Roman civil year. It was renamed after Augustus Caesar.

    It was the time of the year when the harvest was almost completed.

  3. September was the seventh month of the Roman civil year.

    This was a month of relative rest for the farmer. The harvest was in and there was no need to call upon the gods for favors. Therefore, there were few, if any, festivals. It was a time for their oldest and most famous game, the Ludi Romani.

  4. October was the eighth month of the Roman civil year.

    This month marked the end of the planting season that had begun in March, and therefore, a time to honor Mars.

  5. November was the ninth month of the Roman civil year.

    This the least important month for religious festivals. They did, however, celebrate the Ludi Plebeii, a time of performances and circus games that extended from the 4th to the 17th.

  6. December was the tenth month of the Roman civil year.

    There was little work to be done during this month. Therefore, there were a lot of celebrations and fesitvals.

A Brief History of the Western Calendar