It’s a name we see for 31 days every year, yet very few of us would know why it’s called what it is. Obviously we are talking about a month of the year, but which one? Well it just happens to be January. So have you ever wondered how January got its name?
The calendar as we know it is based in a large part on the Julian Calendar, and as such many names are Roman in Origin. Most of the months used in the Julian calendar date to the early days of Rome. For instance, July is named after Julius Caesar, and August is named after Augustus Caesar. But January got its name from a Roman god, Janus. The second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, who succeeded the founder of Rome, Romulus, called the first month Januarius, as Janus was considered to be the most divine at that time.
Janus is associated with doorways and is a two faced god. Janus is considered to be a god of transitions and beginnings. January is the first month of the year, and is named after him because he is seen as seeing out the old year while looking forward to the new year ahead.
He was one of the most revered Roman gods. At just about every festival or celebration, people would almost always find some way to pay homage to him. He presided over wars, and the doors to his temple would remain open during times of conflict, and closed during times a peace.
But January isn’t the only thing that has been named in his honor. Janitors too are named after Janus. Because there’s no better way to honor a mighty and powerful god than to name a hard working, under paid, cleaner of lavatories and all things filthy in their name.