Lets face it. The Millennium only exists because we have a calendar. The purpose of a calendar is to show how many days will pass until a certain event takes place, or how long it has been since some important event happened.
The oldest known calendars were “lunar-based.” In various parts of the world,calendars were “event-based” (i.e. such as Egypt who based their calendar on the annual flooding of the Nile River, in addition to a “solar-based” calendar). The original Jewish calendar was lunar-based.
When the Romans became the ultimate power of the civilized world, so too their calendar, known as “The Roman Calendar” or the “Julian Calendar” reigned. Eventually in the 1400s the “Gregorian Calendar” became popular. But it was not until 1700 that most of Europe adopted this calendar. In Great Britain the change took place in 1752, in Russia 1918, and in Turkey 1926. And remember, just because the Western World uses this calendar, it doesn't mean it works well.
But then Jasia, the “mad scientist” of genealogical topics decided that how we spent the “New Millennium” would be appropriate blog-fodder for the 38th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. Actually, the term, “Millenium” is most frequently used in a religious sense, i.e. the thousand years mentioned in Revelation, when some believe that Christ will reign on earth.
One religious group, now often called “Millerites” believed that the Millenium would begin between 21 October 1843 and 21 March 1844. When it didn't arrive, a second date was predicted, which of course again was incorrect. (This is often called the “Great Disappointment of 1844”). This group of believers became the beginnings of what we call the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Since a Millennium celebration is a rarity, and a Century celebration is something that more people can experience, at least once in their lifetime, I was curious about how our ancestors celebrated the new century. I decided to take a look at the turn of the century that our grandparents or great-grandparents experienced–the Century Celebration of 1900 (my scope was limited to North America).
On December 31, 1899 churches held special midnight services. New Year's Open Houses were in vogue, in clubs, public places and in private homes. On January 1, 1900 President McKinley was kept busy all day receiving callers, and a special programme was released in the newspaper. On that same day New York's young governor, who happened to be Theodore Roosevelt (a distant cousin of mine) held an open house in Albany NY, and long lines of people were wrapped around the capitol building there.
Reportedly the chief of police of St. John, Canada released all the prisoners in the city jail on Dec 31st because “he wanted to give them a fresh start in the new century.” A great street race was held in New York City, with a steam-driven vehicle announced the winner.
Many noted writers of the day argued about whether the 20th Century began on January 1, 1900 or one year later on January 1, 1901 (the second scenario is actually correct). Some towns and cities waited until the latter date for their official celebrations. The morning was Welcomed in by “the usual discordant blasts of whistles and the ringing of bells.”
One newspaper, on Dec. 30, 1899, wrote: “One hundred years ago today New York was in deep mourning for the death of George Washington. It was Washington's funeral day in this city, and a parade of an elaborate and novel character had been arranged by the municipal officials, in which every civil and military society took part.”
The Bangor Daily Whig & Courier of Dec 30, 1899 published the following New Years Menu:
Oatmeal and Milk.
Boiled Herrings. Fried Potatoes.
Hot Rolls. Coffee.
LUNCHEON OR TEA
Cold Tongue. Potato Salad.
Pommes Frites. Muffins.
Vanilla Ice Cream.
Browned Potatoes. Yorkshire Pudding.
Roast Beef. Celery Salad.
Fruits and Nuts. Cheeses.
Now, finally to answer Jasia's original question…. How do I usually face a new year, century, and millennium? Quietly. While growing up my dad worked the midnight shift on New Years Day, and so usually he wasn't home for celebrating.
On New Years Day my family attended church, followed by a formal Sunday-like meal. Later on after the New Years Day parade was televised, we'd enjoy watching it (I still do). I've never attended a New Year's party, although I've had the opportunity. Some years I stay up and watch the “Ball Drop” in Times Square on television. One can't be much more boring than this! (grin)
P.S.: In 2008 Temple NH will celebrate what they are calling their “Quarter Millennium Celebration” (250th birthday). The correct term for a 250th anniversary is a Bicenquinquagennial