January believes it has squatter’s rights to the calendar because it is first in line. With a full month of thirty-one days, the first holiday of the year--New Year’s Day, and its menu of weather-related entrees, who can argue with such chronoscopic arrogance? Named after Janus, a Roman god of beginnings and endings, openings and closings; Janus is always portrayed as having two faces, one looking forward, one backward. January is his month because it is the time when the sun starts to return. He is the doorkeeper who watches over the entrance or beginning of the year.
Part of January’s prominence is due to the ritual of formulating one’s personal intentions and plans for the New Year. Amid celebrations with noise makers, confetti, and renditions of Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight, people across the globe usher in the latest allotment of days by making resolutions, commitments, and hopeful toasts for laughter, love, good health and good fortune. Party hats and glasses filled with libation complete a resume worthy of January’s namesake. Such frenzy at the start of a New Year, looking both forward and backward is enough to give a Roman god whiplash.
But January is more than just a party and pretty faces. It is a time when winter displays its full strength and control on all living things. Freezing temperatures, icy roads, cold gloomy days, crystal clear dark nights and occasional visits of bright sunshine fill this initial cluster of days. January is both predictable and unpredictable. As the earth continues to orbit around the sun, daylight lengthens—first by a stingy few minutes, then, toward the end of the month, more generously. But January exacts a price for this additional sunlight by delivering only brightness while holding back on warmth. And just to remind us of its adventurous nature, January whips up on a moments notice, icy soufflés, snow drifts, and pellets of freezing rain that cover cars, coats and roadways with an abundance of freezy skid-stuff which challenge both ambulatory and driving skills. January’s precocious behavior keeps insurance agents and body shops well supplied with patrons who literally meet by accident. All these fender benders make Janus smile. Rumor has it that January invented wind chill. This is one month that is forever trying to stay young, with its thermometer readings usually in the teens or twenties. At times it regresses to single digits and below zero in an attempt to display total disregard for maturity. And, every now and then, just for laughs—a blizzard! If January wants a little more respect, it should change its ways by offering an annual Tax Freeze—and forget about the ice and snow. Being the time when we receive our W-2’s doesn’t do much either. But for those of us who celebrate their birthday in January—either Capricorn or Aquarius--we wholeheartedly appreciate the antics of this month. It is difficult to explain, but January makes us smile.
To inhabitants who live at forty-two degrees North Latitude, January is add-an-extra-blanket month, turn up the thermostat time, put on layers of flannel and get dressed before going to bed. Cuddling and snuggling is mandatory nightly behavior. January is a steaming hot cup of coffee before dawn, hot soup at lunch, and suppers served on heated plates. January is scurry from store to warm car, store to warm car, store to warm house. January is when shoppers use extra gas searching for parking spaces closer to the mall’s entrance. January is watching wildlife enjoy the bounty at feeders you keep filled. January is when school kids return to classrooms and moms regain the sanity of daily routine. January is when everyone considers heating their garages. January is the time when landscapers offer discounts for mower tune-ups and lawn care service. January is finding the courage to face both darkness and cold fetching the morning paper, setting out trash and letting Fido do his business. It’s also a time when residents battle nasty conditions taking down outdoor Christmas decorations. January is chapped lips, dry skin, red noses, watery eyes, cold feet and chilled bodies. January holds mystery why kids are impervious to frigid temperatures, revel in snow, enjoy sliding on ice, and rarely have their scarf tied or jacket fully zipped; while seasoned human units hunker down, stooped shouldered shivering to keep warm. January is a geriatric obstacle course. January is wool hats, mittens and boots. January teases and taunts one to move to lower latitudes.
By the end of the first thirty-one days, January is pretty much spent and willingly turns things over to February. As daylight increases, January’s envious look knows there will never be a draft to serve another monthly term. January is my favorite month—enjoy.