THE GOD OF BEGINNINGS

By Krip Yuson

 

I like the French word for the first month of the year: Janvier. Sounds poetic. But if you’re to Google it further, dismaying is the knowledge that Janvier Labs “are an international and independent company, specialis(ing) in rodent research models and associated services.” Thankfully, it is also “a London-based premium accessories house with an emphasis on luxurious statement pieces.”

Of course it’s a variation of the Latin for January as the first month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars: Ianuarius, named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology. It also comes from the Latin word for door (ianua) since “January is the door to the year.”

Originally, March was the first month in the old Roman calendar, when traditionally it consisted of only ten months, with winter deemed as a month-less period. But either around 713 BC or 450 BC, depending on the Roman historian, the months of January and February were added to stretch the calendar and make it nearly equal to a standard lunar year of 354 days. By 153 BC, the practice of naming two consuls who entered office on May 1 and March 15 was changed, to have them enter office on January 1.

By the 16th century, European countries “began officially making January 1 the start of the New Year once again — sometimes called Circumcision Style because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, being the seventh day after December 25.”

I still recall January 1 being celebrated as the Feast of the Circumcision, way back as a grader in San Beda College in Manila. Five days later it was the Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings, on January 6, no matter what day that holiday fell on, until the practice gave way to having it on the first Sunday of the first month, thus becoming a movable feast.

Things change. But as the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or do they? I recall having our kids line up their shoes by a window on the eve of the Feast of Three Kings. And we’d fill them with chocolates and candies, and leave some dirt around the shoes, as evidence of camels’ dirty toes.

In recent years, January has become our balikbayans’ favored month for a homecoming. Not only are airfares low. Also avoided is the crush of the Christmas season, the terrible traffic, the pellmell nature of malling, caroling, daily feasting. And yet the season remains balmy, for golf back in the homeland, for clan reunions, why, even as late as Valentine’s Day.

 

Illuminati: The God of Beginnings

 

Indeed, the god of beginnings can stretch the door for all practical purposes.

We can also imagine how, in the 16th century whence began our colonization, the word “Enero” was introduced to our shores. Not only was a calendar concept of time brought to bear on our forebears’ consciousness, making distinct each arrival of a new moon, but how it detailed the passage of the seasons more than agricultural phases of the year.

Decades later, a Waray folk song would celebrate the Spanish months in a distinct way, marrying their recitation as verse to something totally unrelated. Thus, the “Lubi-lubi” song that has since been claimed even by non-Warays, and said to be “taught in elementary schools elsewhere in the Philippines because the last lines serve as a useful mnemonic for the months of the year.”

Thus, “Enero, Pebrero,/ Marso, Abril, Mayo,/ Hunyo, Hulyo, Agosto,/ Setyembre, Oktubre,/ Nobyembre, Desyembre,/ Lubi-lubi.”

The god of beginnings, or transitions, could not have had it any other way. The more things are begun, the more they stay the confusing same?

 


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