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The 12 months of the year are some of the first things we learn to name. But once we get used to these names, they become as familiar as a primary color or a favorite food. A month’s name is hardly ever given any thought. Let’s take a look at where these names have stemmed from:
Named after Janus, the Roman god of gates and doorways. It is represented with two heads that are back to back, signifying that he is looking back at the past for perspective, or looking forward to the future for hope. This duality perfectly coincides the end of one year and the start of the next.
Derived from the Roman period of Februa, back in the day this was a festival of purification, also called the festival of Lupercalia. February was named after the Roman God Februus who represented purification. This festival took place on the 15th day of the month. It included some cleansing rituals which were believed to improve health and fertility.
In the Roman calendar, the third month of our calendar was their first month. It was named after Mars, the Roman god of war and identified with the Greek god Ares. It was a time to resume war after the winter had thawed out.
This month is considered to be the month of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The word itself comes from the Latin word apeire. This means to open, and is usually referred to in connection with flower buds opening to bloom in the spring.
Derived from the French word Mai, and named after Maia, the goddess of spring and growth. Maia is the daughter of Faunus, one of the oldest Roman deities and the wife of Vulcan. In Greek mythology, Maia is known as the mother of Hermes. Both the Greeks and the Romans considered Maia to be a nurturer filled with warmth.
June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of love and marriage. According to Roman mythology, Juno watched over pregnant women and children, ensuring their safe births. For this reason, getting married in June is considered good luck. Not only is June an ideal time for weddings, it is also a good month for renewing vows and conceiving children.
Initially known as Quintillis, or the fifth month, this month was named in honor of Julius Ceasar after his death in 44 B.C.E. as he was born in this month. July is the first month of the calendar which is named after a real person.
Originally called Sextilis, from the Latin word sextus, meaning six. Its name was then changed to honor the Roman emperor Augustus, Ceasar’s great nephew. Augustus brought peace to a conflicted area and inspired growth, reform and a stronger infrastructure within its cities.
September comes from the Latin term septem, meaning seven, as it was originally the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar – which until 153 BCE was originally ten months long. September depicted the celebration of Ludi Romani, which lasted several weeks and featured chariot races, gladiatorial contests and lots of feasts. Spiritually, September can be thought of as the month we celebrate our personal victories and accomplishments.
Derived from the word octo, which means eight – as this was the eight month of the Roman calendar, which then became the tenth month with the Gregorian calendar. October is marked by many festivals that take place around the world, including Oktoberfest in Germany.
Derived from the Latin word novem, meaning nine. Its name stuck, just as the other did, even after January and February were added to the calendar. November is associated with Thanksgiving in the states, a four day weekend that includes a lot of eating, Black Friday and the start of the Christmas holiday season.
Coming from the Latin word decem, which means ten, this month of the Julian calendar is the tenth month, while it is now the 12th month of the Gregorian one. The Latin name is derived from Decima, the middle Goddess of the Three Fates, and the one who personifies the present.