The Way January Got Its Name

January received its name from Janus, the god in Roman mythology with two faces, one looking forward from the front of his head and one on the back of his head looking at the past.

Thus, the month of January like Janus looks back at years past and forward at the New Year.

As for Janus, the ancient Romans believed that he was in charge of transitions such as war to peace, frames, doors, gates and passages. As the god of duality, Janus presided over new beginnings.

Many famous people have been born in January, too many to name all. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and Muhammad Ali was born on Jan. 17, 1942. Elvis Presley drew his first breath on Jan. 8, 1935.

Prior to the 20th century, the following are the names of some famous people who celebrated their birthdays in January: Joan of Arc, 1412; Henry VII of England, 1457; Sir Isaac Newton, 1643; Benjamin Franklin, 1706; Alexander Hamilton, 1755; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756; Robert E. Lee, 1807; Edgar Allen Poe, 1809; J.R.R. Tolkien, 1892; and J. Edgar Hoover, 1895.

During the 20th century, some others born in Jan. other than King and Ali are Betty White, 1922; Paul Newman, 1925; Sharon Tate, 1943; Joe Frazier, 1944; Tom Selleck, 1945; George Foreman, 1949; Robert Kennedy, Jr., 1954; Mel Gibson, 1956; Eli Manning, 1981; and Alicia Keys, 1981.

Four U.S. Presidents were born in Jan. They were Millard Fillmore, Jan. 7, 1800; William McKinley, Jan. 29, 1843; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan 30, 1882; and Richard M. Nixon, Jan. 9, 1913.

With 2021 nearing its end, January, to put it in theatrical terms, is waiting on the wings to usher in 2022 when the ball drop in Times Square is scheduled to take place in view of the crowd in the “Big Apple” that will be limited to a reported 15,000 vaccinated people, all of whom will be required to wear a mask.

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