This quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Day has many reflecting on 2020 and trying to have “hope” for 2021.
After a lifetime of unmemorable New Year’s Eve celebrations, this year will be no exception. There was the year I went at a friend’s apartment in NYC with a view of Times Square and he played Prince’s 1999 right when the ball reached the bottom which was cool. But before that it was babysitting while my parents went to a party and more recently I wonder how and why I would stay up until midnight.
It made me think of this calendar we live by. Why should we have hope just because it is January 1st? Like many aspects of our Western lives, the origin is Ancient Rome. I find the remnants of this empire fascinating because I live on the edges of our modern empires. I'm a guest, an observer, but never feel like an integral part. I speak the language of the English empire and live in the US, the modern day Rome.
Celebrating the New Year on January 1st started when Julius Caesar decided the calendar should be based on the solar year rather than the lunar cycle, which would fall out of phase with the seasons. Roman Emperors continued to have power so the month Quintilis became Julius and Sextilis became Augustus. January was named after Janus, the two-faced god of change and beginnings symbolically looking back at the old and ahead to the new.
While the Romans named months, the Christians named our year. Years used to be dated based on who was ruling or counting from the founding of the city of Rome. Christians wanted to move away from this. It took several hundred years, but eventually it caught on to name years as BC or Before Christ and AD or Anno Domini, the year of our Lord. (People are now trying to use BCE, for “before common era”, and CE, for “common era” but to me it's moving around pieces in the same game.)
Vision of the Cross Fresco Sala di Constantino, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
So here we are with the remnants of Roman Emperors, Christians establishing themselves as a superpower, and memories of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve.
Over the years, people sometimes grew tired of my romanticizing Roman time and told me they may have produced beautiful art and architecture, but they also had slavery, injustice and plagues.
Anno Domini 2020 had all three. As will 2021.
Comune di Negrar
In May of 2020, archeologists located and partially exposed the floor of a third century villa beneath an operating vineyard in Valipolicella, Italy.
A beautiful, intricate mosaic peeks out from beneath the dirt. People who dealt with slavery, injustice, and plagues still skillfully created mesmerizing patterns by hand. (I particularly love this pattern of moons and immediately started thinking of how to incorporate it into jewelry.)
SAP Societa Archeologica S.R.L.
We can all take inspiration from Janus and look back and ahead. While computers take up a disproportionate amount of our modern lives, there are still talented artisans producing beautiful work. My 'resolution' is to find people keeping art alive and share their work with you.
Also, many of you have asked about sharing my emails with friends. Please feel free and you have my gratitude. Writing is only worth the feelings it brings to readers.
Old beauty. New connections.
Happy New Year!