ASU scientist elaborates on the origin of the Old New Year

14 January 2017 Department of Information and Media Communications
Today citizens of Russian and the majority of former soviet republics celebrate the Old New Year (the Orthodox New Year). Despite the fact that it is unofficial, the Old New Year is one of the most favourite holidays.

In 2018 it will be exactly 100 years from the day, when such holiday as the Old New Year appeared. In 1918 the Russian government officially adopted the Gregorian calendar, but the Russian Orthodox Church continued to use the Julian calendar. That is why Russia celebrates two New Years – the New New Year on 1 January and the Old New Year on 14 January.

“Different calendars are based on the earth’s revolution around the sun, the moon’s revolution around the earth and combination of these two processes. The most convenient is solar calendar, where the length of the calendar year approximates the tropical year, which is 365.2422 days (365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds),” explained lecturer of the Department of Economic Geography and Cartography Roman S. Nepriyatel. “In 46 BC Julius Caesar reformed the complex Roman calendar and proposed the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar had 365 days and a leap day added to February every four years.”

According to Roman S. Nepriyatel, the modern Julian calendar considers leap years to be the ones that can be divided by 4 without a remainder. Thus, the average duration of the Julian year is 365.25 days, which is only 0.0078 days or 11 minutes 14 seconds longer than a tropical year. However, after 128 years the difference will amount to 1 day, while after 400 years it will be 3 days.

“The difference between the Julian and tropical years had amounted to 10 days by 1582, and the day of vernal equinox fell at 11 March instead of 21 March,” continued the scientist. “It lead to contradictions in calculations of the calendar date of Easter. By the rules of the Christian Church, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the spring full moon, in other words the first full moon after the vernal equinox. In 325 AD this rule was established at the First Council of Nicaea. The vernal equinox fell on 21 March then. So in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII introduced a reform of the Julian calendar. 4 October 1582 was followed by 15 October 1582. Moreover, the Gregorian calendar improves the approximation made by the Julian calendar by omitting three Julian leap days in every 400 years. The reform allowed stopping the drift of the calendar and making the average length of the year equal to 365.2425 days. Within this framework, the 1-day gap will emerge in 3,300 years, not in 128 years like in the Julian calendar.”

In Russia people switched to the Gregorian calendar in 1918, when 31 January was followed by 14 February, because by the beginning of the 20th century the gap between the calendars had already been 13 days. This gap continues to increase.

“This is why in 84 years (in 2101) we will celebrate the Old New Year on 15 January, not on 14 January like we do nowadays,” concluded Roman S. Nepriyatel.

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