January is ushered in with New Year’s Day, which is celebrated with a public holiday for 90% of the world’s population, making it the most widely observed holiday of the year. January is notable for the lack of national days; clearly January wasn’t a good time to ask your colonial powers for your independence. Indeed the major national day, Australia Day somewhat controversially celebrates the colonial arrival in Australia.
Month info: January is named after Janus, the god of the doorway; the name has its beginnings in Roman mythology, coming from the Latin word for door (ianua) since January is the door to the year. The Saxon word for January was Wulfmonath: the month when starving wolves were bold enough to enter villages.
Featured Holiday in January
January 1: New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day is January 1st, the first day of the year, in the Gregorian calendar, and falls exactly one week after the Christmas Day of the previous year.
New Year’s Day is a public holiday in all countries that observe the Gregorian calendar, with the exception of Israel. This makes it the most widely observed public holiday in the year.
It is traditionally celebrated with firework displays across the globe at 00:00 in the local time zones.
Did you know?
The first recorded New Year’s celebration dates back 4,000 years to Babylon, when the first moon after the spring equinox marked a new year.
The early Roman calendar began with March, and when January and February were added during one of the many attempts to clean up the calendar, they were actually added to the end of the year. The start of the year was fixed at 1st January in 153 BCE, by two Roman consuls.
This tinkering by the Romans had little effect on when different parts of Europe celebrated New Year. For some, it might begin on Christmas Day, for others it could still be March 1st or even March 25th. For some, it was even determined by Easter, which meant a different New Year’s Day date every year.
It wasn’t until the Gregorian calendar was adopted that things finally settled down with January 1st becoming the accepted New Year’s Day across the world.
Did you know?
In 45 BC, New Year’s Day was celebrated on January 1st for the first time as the Julian calendar came into use.
Notable Holidays in January
January 6: Epiphany
It is always celebrated on January 6th and commemorates the presentation of the infant Jesus to the Magi, or three wise men. In some countries, it may be known as ‘Three Kings Day‘.
Interestingly, the bible doesn’t mention how many wise men there were – just that three gifts were given and that they came from the east.
The common consensus is that there were between two and twenty wise men. They were likely to have been Zoroastrian Priests. It wasn’t until about 500AD that three was accepted to be the standard number of wise men – the reasoning simply due to the number of gifts. To further complicate matters, the wise men may not even have been men or wise. In 2004, a report by the general synod of the church of England concluded that ‘magi’ gives no indication as to number, or gender, or even to the level of wisdom.
January 15: Pongal
This is a popular Hindu festival that occurs on or around January 14th across India. It is also celebrated as a public holiday in Sri Lanka.
The day is known by various names and a variety of different customs are observed in the different Indian states.
Despite these variations, it is a harvest and thanksgiving festival marking the start of spring, the end of the traditional farming season and the gathering of the first food from the harvest.
It is unique among Hindu festivals as the date is based a solar calendar rather than the phases of the moon. The date of Pongal marks the start of Uttarayana, the time when the sun starts to move northwards after the winter equinox.
January 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Each year on the third Monday of January, America honors the birth, life and dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is a time to remember the injustices that Dr. King fought. A time to remember his fight for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all races and peoples through non violence.
Dr. King was an American clergyman and civil-rights leader. Born on January 15th 1929, he became minister of the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954. He led the black boycott of segregated city bus lines in 1956 and gained a major victory as a civil-rights leader when Montgomery buses began to operate on a desegregated basis.
January 26: Australia Day
Australia Day a public holiday on January 26th and is Australia’s national day.
It marks the arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales on that date in 1788, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain by Captain Arthur Phillip.
It was not until 1994 that all the states and territories endorsed the celebration of Australia Day on the actual day, instead of the nearest Monday. United Australia Day celebrations have been held on January 26th ever since.
National Days in January
Six countries have their national days in January. How many people in the company do you know from each country? Remember to wish them a happy national day!
|Jan 01||Cuba||Liberation Day: Marks the 1959 Revolution led by Fidel Castro|
|Jan 01||Haiti||Independence Day: Marks independence from France in 1804|
|Jan 01||Sudan||Independence Day: Independence from Egypt and Britain in 1956|
|Jan 08||Northern Mariana Islands||Commonwealth Day: The constitutional government takes office 1978|
|Jan 26||Australia||Australia Day: Date of the founding of Sydney, the first European settlement in Australia, 1788|
|Jan 31||Nauru||Independence Day: Independence from the Australia, NZ, and UK administered UN trusteeship in 1968|
Throughout the month, there are days set aside to observe all sorts of events, some serious and some not so serious. These days can provide interesting ways to engage employees in diversity issues. The table below shows a selection of these days with some ideas how you could use them within your organisation.
|1st||New Year’s Resolutions||Discussion: What would be your three resolutions? One for you in your personal life, one for you in your work life and one for your company.|
|4th||National Trivia Day||Discussion: What’s the best bit of trivia you know, that nobody else knows?|
|14th||National Clean Off Your Desk Day||Action: It’s a bit early for a spring clean, but now all the festivities are over, take this time to clean up your desk.|
|11th||National Emergency Number Day||Action: Check that your company/someone has your contact details in case of an emergency.|
|24th||National Compliment Day||Action: How many compliments can you give your co-workers before they realize something’s up? Hint: if it’s one – cheer up, grumpy!|
|28th||National Have Fun At Work Day||Poll: You already have fun at work, right?|
|29th||National Puzzle Day||Activity: How about running a short quiz on the intranet to brighten up the long winter days?|