Springfords LLP blog

Some news, views and comments about everything and anything, relevant and irreverent.

January Comes First

05 January 2015

Why do we make such a fuss about our chosen New Year? After all, it’s just a civic convenience that signifies very little in the natural order of the year. It’s not the winter solstice - the shortest day falls almost a fortnight earlier - and the latest sunrise isn’t until over a week later.  You can flip those observations on their heads if you’re reading this in the Southern Hemisphere, but the combined effects of perihelion and orbital procession are the same all over the planet.  Nowhere on Earth does January the First have celestial significance.

Some argue that there’s real stellar significance to January the First.  It’s the day that Sirius - the brightest star in our northern skies - reaches its highest position of the year.  That’s true, but there are bright stars reaching maximum declination on almost every other night of the year too!

January the First wasn’t even adopted as the consensual start of the year throughout the British Isles until surprisingly recently.  The Act of Union was a well thumbed historical document before England resolved to do what Scotland had done 107 years earlier - and move the start of the year from Lady Day on March 25th to January the First.  The whole of the British Isles didn’t harmonise their observance of New Year until 1752.  Ever since then, Scots have had to make do with one Hogmanay a year.

Resolutely resigned to one annual excuse for a hang over of Gregorian proportions, the Scots might be better disposed to making resolutions stick.  However, unless you count resolving to have an extra day off at New Year, the Scots are just as slack at sticking to resolutions as everyone else.

Would we have more success if our resolutions were made on days of more natural significance?  Perhaps, but we’re not banking on it.  The ancients may have made all their resolutions on the solstices, but judging by the unfinished standing stone circles around these islands, they didn’t have any luck either.  If the PIcts had gyms, they would probably have been just as deserted by February too. 

Rule one of a resolution you can keep is make it realistic.  Obviously, with Druidic hindsight, resolving to drag thousands of tons of stone blocks halfway across Wiltshire was a bit of a non-starter anyway.  Maybe resolving to invent the wheel would have helped cut down on the unrealistic dragging and upped the ante on the rolling.

Of course, talking about rolling, then the deadline for personal tax returns is rolling in at only 4 weeks and three days after the First of January.  For those of you who are already late in submitting your information to your accountants to meet this deadline then guess what your first resolution should be  - a realistic target don’t you think?.

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