How the Gods and the Romans made your New Year

Our lives are run by Time, and time begins with the New Year, in our minds. For most us in the Northern Hemisphere (where roughly 88 percent of the world’s population lives), though, starting the new year on January 1st feels strange and counter-intuitive. It’s the dead of winter and most of nature is quite literally sleeping. The way that we humans devised systems to track time has been a complex affair, influenced by religious traditions, politics, astronomical events and seasonal changes. So with all of those and more at our disposal, why does our new year start on January 1st, which is no time for renewal and rejuvenation.

So why Jan 1?

Simply put, it’s all about politics. When the Romans used a lunar calendar, the year began in March, on the day that the new consuls took office for the year. But the lunar calendar frequently fell out of step with the seasons and had to be corrected. To make matters worse, the Roman pontifices (who were charged with overseeing the calendar), often added days to extend political terms or interfere with elections. And here you were thinking that only the Russians did that….

So in steps my favorite Roman dictator – Julius Caesar – who decided that the

Janus, the two-headed Roman god
Janus, the two-headed Roman god

Roman calendar desperately needed to be fixed. With the aid of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer, Julius decided to do away with the lunar calendar completely and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and ¼ days. Caesar added 67 days to 45 B.C., making 46 B.C. begin on January 1st, rather than in March.

Julius also decreed that every four years an additional day would be added to February, thus keeping his calendar from falling out of step. This started our current practice of the Leap year.

The Roman God of beginnings and endings

January had a festival for Janus, the Roman god of time, duality, gates or beginnings. Janus’ has a most interesting association with time. His two heads were said to allow him to see both the past and the future. He was said to have witnessed the beginning of time, and could see ahead to the end.The association between Janus and the calendar was cemented by the construction of 12 altars, one for each month of the year, in Janus’s temple in the Forum Holitorium.

From 153 B.C. onwards, the Roman consuls took office on the first day of January, offering prayers to Janus. The Romans distributed dates, figs and honey to their friends, hoping that the new year would turn out to be as sweet, as well as coins hoping that the year would be prosperous.

The Middle Ages.

By the middle ages, the celebration of January 1st as the beginning of the new year fell out of practice, even with die-hard followers of the Julian calendar. This was because Caesar and Sosigenes were a bit off in their calculation of the length of the solar year. The correct value of the year was 365.242199 days and not 365.25 days. That 11-minute a year error added 10 days by the mid-15th century. So in 1570, Pope Gregory XIII commissioned Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius to come up with a new calendar. In 1582, the new Gregorian calendar was implemented, omitting 10 days for that year. And establishing a new rule that only one of four centennial years should be a leap year, thus correcting for the additional days in the Julian calendar. Since then, the Gregorian calendar has become the most widely used calendar across the world and people celebrate January 1st as the precise arrival of the New Year.

Are there other New Year dates?

Yes, there are. Even though most cultures follow the Gregorian calendar for day-to-day functions, plenty of cultures have their own calendars. Religious calendars from the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish traditions specify the beginning of their new year at different times in the Gregorian calendar. For example:

  • Sep/Oct in the Judaic tradition. The Jewish new year festival of Rosh Hashanah comes between September and October.
  • Changes every year, in the Islamic tradition. The Islamic new year fluctuates, thanks to it’s lunar calendar.
  • Persians and many others mark the new year on the first day of spring, in a festival called Nowruz. Nowruz coincides with the vernal equinox, which falls between March 19 to 21st and comes when day and night are exactly equal in length.
  • March / April, for Hindus. There are two schools of thought in the Hindu Calendar. One is lunar and the other is solar. So for some Hindus, the month of
    Balance of sweetness and bitterness
    Balance of sweetness and bitterness

    Chaitra is the first month and for others the month of Vaishaka is the first month. The first day of the month of Chaitra or Vaishaka (spring) is known as Yugadi (yuga – year and adi – beginning). Both dates fall in March / April according to the Gregorian calendar. Growing up in India, I remember that unlike the Roman tradition of just sweets, the Hindu new year tradition of bevu-bella (neem and jaggery) signified the symbolic balance of bitter and sweet in the new year.

  • January or February, for the Chinese. The Chinese New Year is also a spring festival which is a lunar festival and generally falls in end January or early February.

While a lot of cultures have their New Year’s day on different dates, celebrating the Julian/Gregorian New Year’s Day on January 1st is now universal. And the Times Square ball drop on a chilly New York night is a much watched tradition world-wide.

As we help our customers track time. we’ll bring you more interesting tidbits about work, time, life, phone and the balance between them. Wish you a very joyous, peaceful and healthy 2019.

Until next time!

The ROI of automated time tracking

If you are like most US businesses, payroll and associated costs form as much as 50% of your total budget. And like a lot of businesses, you may not be using automated time tracking systems.

Traditionally, payroll is a manual and labor intensive process, with employees hand-writing or punching in time cards. Not only is this process error-prone and rife with time padding and buddy punching, it’s a system that requires additional audit and reconciliation. There’s overwhelming evidence that streamlining the payroll process with a simple and automated time tracking system can significantly reduce payroll costs.

Let’s take a look at how an automated time tracking system can eliminate errors and increase accountability.

Reduce human error.

Let’s face it. Errors on time sheets are not exactly rare. For the most part, they are genuine human errors in rounding up or down, perhaps a misplaced decimal, maybe a miscalculation of hours worked. And then there’s those completely illegible timecards. Can you blame your payroll processor, if they couldn’t read the timecard correctly? Or even if they hit the wrong key? Automated time tracking systems reduce such human errors by close to 90%.

Your Mobile Time Tracker
Time tracking with optional photos, notes and GPS locations

Buddy punching” – the act of clocking someone in when they are not actually there – affects 75% of businesses in the US. It can cost businesses up to 7% of a company’s gross payroll annually. Let’s say your annual payroll is $ 250,000. That’s an additional $ 17,500 in payroll costs that you could easily avoid and send to your bottom-line, with automated time tracking. Then add in the costs of hour inflating. With a mobile time tracking solution, you have the added benefits of photos and GPS locations, to avoid these time theft issues.

Speed up payroll processing.

With all timesheet data collected digitally into a single system, you completely eliminate the need to collect manual timecards, transcribe them, calculate hours worked and manually update your payroll system. You can either integrate the data from your time tracking system directly to your payroll system or just export data from your time tracking system and import it into your payroll system. Automating this process can easily save you 50% of your payroll processing costs.

Eliminate material costs.

Automating your time tracking system eliminates several recurring costs associated with a paper-based system.  Reduce the costs on paper, ink, storage, mailing. And win big for Planet Earth with an environmentally friendly digital system.

It’s a win-win-win for your employees (faster payroll), your company (reduced costs) and Planet Earth (reduced paper and ink). Time to make the move?

 

 

 

Do you know how your employees are spending their time

Add in costs for compensation, federal, state and local taxes and other benefits

How do you track employee time?
Employee time tracking

and I’m fairly certain that employee costs are the single biggest expense for most companies. Every hour that your employees spend working has a certain cost attached. Do you know how your employees are spending their time? Are you able to track what unproductive tasks are sucking time away from your employees?

A good time tracking tool that is simple and easy to use by everyone in your company will help you answer this question. After all, time is a finite quantity and you would really want to know where that time is being spent. While the underlying reason for time tracking for most companies is easier payroll or faster billing, a good time tracking solution can actually give you a lot more insights into your business. As a manager, if you could get a clear view into the actual use of time by your employees, you could do a lot more analysis.

  • Are your employees spending a lot more time on unproductive meetings,
    Analyze employee time
    Time Tracking reports

    administrative tasks rather than on revenue generation tasks like sales or customer service?

  • Can you identify opportunities to improve processes such that you can reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction?
  • Compare actual time spent on a project vs the initial time estimates that you made. Are your projects actually profitable?
  • Can you make your estimates more accurate? Can you identify scope creep and modifications to project scope?
  • How about increasing employee satisfaction by removing unnecessary tasks and steps?
  • Can you move resources from under-worked teams to overworked teams?

When you begin to track employee time at a granular level and have a base of actual data to analyze, you’ll definitely find areas that you can improve your processes and cut costs. While at the same time, improving customer and employee satisfaction.