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Wednesday, November 9, 2011


"November" means "ninth month." 

Wait a minute. November is the eleventh month in the calendar.

Yes. But it was originally the ninth month when the Roman calendar—from which our present calendar grew—was created.

Way back when, folks didn’t recognize Earth’s position in the solar system. Early calendars were therefore based on the moon’s position in the night sky. One full moon to the next full moon cycled at approximately 29 days. Twenty-nine days equaled one month.

In 753 BC, the Romulus (Roman) calendar contained ten months and a total of 304 days. The year began with the spring equinox generally in March and included 60 days of winter that were not officially part of any month.

Fairly messy calendar, that.

This is what the Romulus calendar looked like:

Martius: We pronounce it March
Aprili: We pronounce it April
Maius: We pronounce it May
Iunius: We pronounce it June
Quintilis: quint means five; this was the fifth month
Sextilis: sext means six; this was the sixth month
September: sept means seven; this was the seventh month
October: oct means eight; this was the eighth month
November: novem means nine; this was the ninth month
December: dec means ten; this was the tenth month

Plus 60 days of winter, sitting all alone and lonely

About 50 years later, Roman King Numa Pompillus added January and February to the calendar and made the year equal 354 days. By sticking January and February at the beginning of the calendar, the names of the months, based on their numerical meaning no longer correlated to their position in the calendar. But the names were kept anyway.

Because, who likes change…really?

Politicians do. And those Roman politicians lengthened and shortened the calendar at will to affect their term of office.

Until the first century B.C., when Julius Caesar began to overhaul the calendar to avoid those political shenanigans. Augustus Caesar finished the overhaul. The month of Quintilis was therefore renamed Iulius (July) in honor of Julius Caesar and Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) in honor of Augustus Caesar.

This new Julian calendar was based on astronomy rather than a lunar cycle. It thus had a regular year of 365 days with a leap day added to February every 4 years.

That calendar was used until 1582 A.D. when Pope Gregory XIII endorsed a new calendar (ours, the "Gregorian calendar") to take into account 11 minutes per year that the Julian calendar became out of alignment with astronomy. Although 11 minutes per day doesn’t seem like much, it adds up to one day every 134 years.

Maybe you didn’t realize the month of November was named because it was originally the ninth month of the year. Maybe you didn’t care. Or still don’t. But if anyone ever asks, now you know that originally November was the ninth month of the Romulus calendar.

November is also the month in America when we are reminded to be thankful for our blessings. I’m thankful that somebody else is in charge of figuring out our calendar.

More than that, I’m grateful for a God who knows we need times and seasons. And so right there on Day Four when God was creating the universe, He thought of us and created our solar system so we could have our handy calendars. And before that, on Day One, He created time itself.

PRAYER: Thank you, Heavenly Father for time and for creating ways for us to track the minutes, days, years and seasons you have blessed us with on this earth.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? What little known fact do you know about the month of November?


chris said...

I'm thankful to God for November and for His amazing grace. November is a pretty good month for me, I LOVE Thanksgiving and family time. Little known fact? I can run faster in November because it's cooler out... or so I think!

I learned a lot from this post, excellent Carol !!

From Carol's Quill said...

@ Chris - LOL about running faster. Am praising God for cooler weather!

lynnmosher said...

What great info, Carol! Thoroughly interesting! Thanks for all your digging! Bless you!

From Carol's Quill said...

@ Lynn - thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.