If you are reading this in the Northern Hemisphere, best of luck. January is the coldest month on this side of the world, the most depressing one, and the one with the most divorces and separations. What a bummer!
While the embers of Christmas and New Year might still linger in your mind, they may not be enough to keep you warm in the dreary depths of winter.
But fear not! We’ve gathered some charmingly curious facts about January to get you going through the start of the year.
Where Did January Come From
Unlike other months in the calendar, January was not named after a number, but instead after the Latin word for door ianua. And unsurprisingly so – January marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one, so ancient Romans saw it as the bridge between the past and the future. This is also why the patron of the month is the ancient Roman god Janus, the double-headed god of doors, beginnings, endings, and transitions.
If you ask me, looking into the past and the future at the same time would give you a headache worse than the New Year’s Eve festivities themselves, so maybe it’s time to bring back one of January’s previous names…
The Anglo-Saxons came up with the informative and slightly terrifying Wulfmonath, or the month of wolves, to mark the time of the year when starving wolves would scavenge towns and villages in Britain for food (and a peasant or two).
Or maybe we should go back to the basics, courtesy of the least-creative-in-the-bunch Charles the Great who designated January as Wintarmanoth, meaning winter or cold month. Like we needed a reminder of how cold it is outside.
January’s reputation as month of endings and beginnings has carried on throughout history. Take, for example, the discovery of King Tut’s sarcophagus. On January 3rd, 1924 the British archaeologist Howard Carter and his team uncovered a stone sarcophagus, containing three coffins nested within each other. The last, golden one contained the mummified body of the teenage pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The discovery of the tomb was not only a massive success for Howard Carter, for archaeology and its offshoot branch of Egyptology, but was also a source of chilling controversy. Bizarre and inexplicable events that commenced after the opening of the sarcophagus, such as apparitions of snakes and jackals and sudden deaths, fuelled the myth of the pharaoh’s curse and generated significant attention to the discovery.
Whether you’re a firm believer in ancient curses or a well-grounded sceptic, the story of Carter’s expedition should certainly inspire you to get ahead with your own magnificent discoveries early on in January, while everyone else is still recovering from the holidays.
And if that fascinating find is not enough to give you the kick you need this month, January is generous with plenty of fascinating festivities to keep you entertained.
For starters, January is crowned as national soup month. Think of it as a win-win holiday. Observing it with a steaming bowl of body-and-soul warming soup will help you survive those cold, cold days (did I mention the cold?), and will probably be what your body needs after a string of stomach-bursting meals galore during Christmas.
Continue celebrating all things wholesome and natural with Houseplant Appreciation Day on January 10th. Winter is probably as harsh on your poor coconut palm or your tired ficus as it is on you, so don’t forget them. Show them some love, play them some classical music (maybe even talk to them a bit if there is no one around). And, if you know someone who loves their leafy babies that much, why not tell them they’re not crazy with a special gift?
Or what about dedicating January 4th to the most obscure facts you’ve gathered throughout the years on National Trivia Day? Challenge yourself to how many irrelevant curiosities you can sneak into casual conversations for extra fun.
If none of those holidays really float your boat and you wish to unleash your inner grump, fear not, for there is a holiday for you too: National Nothing Day on January 19. This is not an official public holiday and was proposed as an un-event only in the US, but nothing stops you from spreading its un-eventful glory wherever you are and whatever you do (or not do). Celebrate it the right way – with nothing, whatsoever. Finally a holiday with zero pressure!
So that’s January for you. A bridge between time and space, sprinkled with wolves, mummies and treasures, and plenty of curious dates to keep the New Year’s ball rolling all through the coldest month in half the globe. And before you know it, it will be summer again.