Welcome to the 21st Century!

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 1/3/00.

Welcome to the 21st Century!

A year ago, much commotion and attention greeted the arrival of the year 2000. Mixed with fears - unfounded, it turned out - about the Y2K bug.

Celebrations around the world marked the change, and phrases "the last - of the millennium" abounded. Most of the world, and the press, erroneously plugged the turning of the century and the millennium a year too early.

The reality was that the Y2K bug was a nonevent, with just a few minor glitches. And the century and the millennium didn't change until 12:01 a.m. Monday, Jan. 1, 2001. See charts with important dates for the millennium and the last century.

Since no year 0 A.D. existed, the first century started on Jan. 1, 1 A.D. A hundred years from then went to Dec. 31, 100. Then the second started on Jan. 1, 101, and so on until the 20th Century started on Jan. 1, 1901, and ended on Dec. 31, 2000.

Similarly, the first millennium didn't end until Dec. 31, 1000. The second started on Jan. 1, 1001, and ended on Dec. 31, 2000. The third started on Monday.

These dates aren't without some disagreement, because while time accurately measured in wide repetition today, it wasn't so closely recorded at the beginning of the first millennium. A.D. refers to "after death," meaning the death of Jesus Christ. But the dates of his birth and his death have been reconsidered.

Click herefor a chart on the populations changes over the last 1000 and 100 years.

A history of the calendar
The earliest calendars were based on the seasons of the year or the phases of the moon. The trouble was to reconcile these to annual events.

The Romans, who were superstitious, designed a calendar that featured months with an odd number of days, like 29 or 31. Their original calendar had 355 days, with an extra month of 22 days added every other year. By the time of Julius Caesar's rule, this calendar was so erroneous that Caesar ordered reform. A year of 445 days was needed to get the calendar back in line with the seasons.

Then, in 44 B.C., a 365-day calendar - based on the solar year - was adopted. To account for the extra six hours in the solar year, an extra day was added every fourth year.

The Julian calendar was used for over 1,600 years. But the calendar was off by almost 12 minutes a year, and in 1,600 years even this added up. The spring equinox drifted by ten days over this time.

Consequently, in 1545, the Council of Trent authorized Pope Gregory XIII to reform the calendar. To make the calendar more accurate, leap years were omitted in century years (i.e. those ending in 00), except for those divisible by 400. So 1600 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. This eliminated three extra days every 400 years, increasing the accuracy of the Gregorian calendar.

Reform was adopted in papal influenced areas in 1582. The last day in the Julian calendar was Thursday, Oct. 4, and the next day - the first in the Gregorian calendar - was Friday, Oct. 15. Thus ten calendar days were skipped.

Calendar reform didn't happen simultaneously. Protestant states ignored the papal order. Germany and the Netherlands didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1698. England not until 1752. And Russia not until 1918.

The Gregorian calendar is still 26 seconds longer than the solar year, but it will take over 3,000 years for that error to add up to a whole day.

Read the story about a local man who has lived in three centuries.

(Information for this report came from the 1987 Information Please Almanac. This report was compiled by Michael Jacobson.)

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