Things are happening in the celestial realm these days, i.e. Mercury is spinning backwards again and we are all hurting because of it. Astrology is quite the divisive study, with some taking the effects of spatial entities to the grave and others brushing it all off like a speck of dust. Basically, where the planets align according to the time of year is thought to make a difference to our lives and behavior. Whether or not you buy into it, though, what you can’t ignore is that it’s all based off time and yearly constants that we don’t dispute. In this case, I’m talking about the months.
No matter what, January will mark the new year, February will randomly have less days and summer will fly by way faster than we anticipated -- even though the same thing happens every year. It’s nice that we can count on something in this wackadoo world. The names of the months, too, are unchanging and accountable, even if their origins were basically arbitrary.
Way back when the Romans had something other than impeccable cuisine and timeless architecture to brag about (you know, their empire), they also decided to come up with a way to mark the passage of time. Back then, though, they only split up the year into 10 months and started with March. Eventually, a king felt like naming the two that weren’t considered anything, and because he was king, he did.
Julius Caesar ended up rearranging the calendar into the order that we recognize today in 46 B.C., though the timing was still a bit off -- it miscalculated the solar year by 11 minutes, so it had started to fall out of sync with the seasons. It wasn’t until 1582 that Pope Gregory XIII adjusted it to the Gregorian calendar, which incorporated the Leap Year mechanism and was meant to move the date of Easter to align more with the spring equinox. And then it wasn’t until 1752 that the British and their colonies adopted the calendar, so that’s where we’re at.
As far as naming the months went, the names mostly fell into three categories: names that represented the months' positions on the calendar, names that honored Roman royalty and those that paid homage to Roman and Greek gods.
January: Once it was decided that January was going to be the first month of the calendar year, it was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings. The winter months were meant to be a time of reflection; Janus is drawn with two faces, one looking into the past and one to the future, making it an appropriate name decided by king Numa Pompilius when he added it.
February: Also added by king Numa Pompilius in 690 B.C., February is the result of an entire month being dedicated to the festival Februa. It was meant to be a month of cleansing with the purification festival as its focal point.
March: Originally the first month of the year, the Romans would insist that all wars cease to celebrate the new year. It was also considered a good time to start new wars, since the weather was starting to turn. Thus, March was named after the god of war, Mars.
April: There are a few theories for the naming of April. It could come from the Latin word “aprillis,” which is derivative of the base “apero-” meaning “second,” since it followed March. There’s also evidence that it was named after the Latin word “aperier,” which means “to open,” representing the opening of flowers come springtime. Who knows, it’s all Latin to us.
May: Easy, breezy May -- this month was named after Maia, the goddess of the earth and growth, because April showers really do bring May flowers!
June: You’ll never make fun of your friend for wanting a “June at the Plaza” wedding again -- the month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, who was the patroness of marriage as well as being queen of the gods.
July: Originally called Quintilis because it means “fifth” in Latin, July was renamed for Julius Caesar right after his assassination in 44 B.C., since it was the month of his birthday.
August: Likewise, August was renamed from Sextillia (Latin for “sixth”) to honor Caesar’s nephew Augustus, also an emperor and, apparently, super pretentious.
September through December: Anddd then the rest get boring. Originally months seven through 10 on the calendar, the last months of the year are simply named based on their once-upon-a-time placements: “Septem,” “Octo,” “Novem” and “Decem,” all Latin for the numbers they represent.