Legalese — Happy New Year! — It’s the Law!

Happy New Year – it’s the law!

If you’re like just about everyone reading this column, you celebrated New Year’s Eve on Friday night, welcoming in the year 2022.  You probably didn’t give it much thought.  January 1 is the first day of the first month of the year – of course it’s New Year’s Day.  It’s 2022 because last year was 2021, and counting back until…what?  The birth of Christ?  Approximately?  Isn’t that why old documents say “The Year of Our Lord”?

In fact, A.D. means “Anno Domini” which means, in Latin, “The Year of Our Lord.”  So saying that this is now 2022 A.D. is a specifically Christian thing.  That said, if we didn’t have a common designation for the year, it would lead to mass confusion in business and commerce, so in a secular way, we all agree that this is the year 2022.  A more respectful way of saying it (and the way scholars generally do) is by saying it is 2022 C.E., which means “Common Era.”

Even January 1st is itself a construct.  There isn’t any particular position of the Earth around the sun that is marked by a starting line.  However, it is codified at 5 U.S. Code §6103, which designates January 1 as New Year’s Day, a Federal Holiday.  Before you say, “But the whole world agrees January 1 is the start of the new year” hold up – that’s not exactly true. 

The U.S. population is currently around 326 million people.  That’s a lot of people.  But it pales in comparison to China and India.  China has 1.4 billion people, and their new year will next be celebrated on February 1st.  India has 1.35 billion people, and the government of India celebrates the Hindu new year on March 22nd this year, and they say it is the year 1944.  It is the currently Islamic year 1443 A.H., and the Islamic new year, Al-Hijra, will next be celebrated on July 29, 2022.  There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world.  The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashonah, will next be celebrated on September 25th, and it is currently the year 5782 in the Hebrew calendar.  There are about 15 million Jewish people in the world.[1] 

So, there’s nothing wrong with saying Happy New Year on January 1.  In American society and culture, it is, in fact, a new year, and we will all be dating our checks and other legal documents 2022 (or, if you’re like me, for the first few months, you’ll be writing 202122).  I just think it’s fascinating to learn that the way I look at the world is not the only way to look at it, and, as Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  Of course, travel is expensive and time-consuming, and reading is cheap[2].  So my new year’s resolution is to read as much as possible about people and places that aren’t like me to slay my prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. 

[1] If I got any of these wrong in any way, I sincerely apologize and welcome corrections.  I am aware of my limited knowledge and do my best to correct it by research, but I am aware that my sources are not always perfect.

[2] Free at the public library!

All opinions herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Monroe Local or Your Local News. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. It is being offered for informational purposes only.

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