Why January 1st? Pope Gregory the choose the Roman numeral of your choice picked the date because the day was the start of the old Roman new year, the feast day of the god of beginnings, Janus, whom the ancients usually represent as having two faces, one facing forward towards the future and the other backwards towards the police, and what Renaissance man could pass up the chance of rescuing the old Roman new year from the mythological dustbin and giving the date a fresh new coat of paint and the chance for a comeback? Of course, the bit about Janus’s two faces is a bit of mythological poetic license at best; Janus was the used chariot dealer to the gods, having snapped up the used chariot concession for a song when every banker in Greece said that investing in Olympian business opportunities was flushing money down a rat hole. Janus got the concession from Jupiter, the king of the gods, in a moment of Jovian weakness; Janus had a private eye and a team of paparazzi to trail Jupiter as he went about his divine duties and, lo and behold, they got some good photos of the king of the gods cavorting and canoodling with some hot Greek babes on the French Riviera. In exchange for the photos and a free hand in the used chariot business, Janus promised not to tell Jupiter’s wife, Hera, about his extramarital and something less than divine activities.
The used chariot business has gone about as well as you might expect. Janus did get himself in some small degree of trouble when he sold a slightly used Mercedes Benz to Apollo and the thing turned out to be a repainted Buick Skylark with 300,000 miles on the odometer and a faulty transmission, or would have had 300,000 miles on the odometer if Janus hadn’t turned the mileage back. This led to some major problems when Apollo tried to drive his new chariot of the sun across the sky; the engine kept overheating, appropriately enough, and then Apollo lost control of the chariot for a couple of seconds, thereby scorching all of North Africa pretty thoroughly and creating what is now the Sahara Desert. Worse yet, Apollo couldn’t get his money back; all sales with Janus are final, something that led to the first lemon law in the history of Mount Olympus, an event made possible by Hera’s reading about Jupiter’s escapades on the Riviera in a cover story in The National Enquirer, a story that came complete with explicit photos of the aforementioned cavorting and canoodling, all suitably airbrushed for publication in a family newspaper. Jupiter promptly hit the untrustworthy paparazzi with thunderbolts for their effrontery and Janus had to end some of his more egregious sales practices, which he didn't like but could do nothing about; you really can't blackmail someone if their wife already knows about about the other woman, after all.
Personally, I am all for moving New Year’s Day back to March 25th. That way anyone who feels they didn’t get sufficiently crocked on St. Patrick’s Day can have another go at it before the week is out. The weather is usually, although not always, better at the end of March. There is no guarantee, of course; warm St. Patrick’s Days are a hit and miss affair at best, but even this is an improvement over having the New Year fall in the dead of winter. Maybe if we could move the day to April 1st that might solve our problem with the day; we could all play tricks on one another for April Fools Day while we get drunk celebrating the New Year. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though; too many people have a vested interest in January 1st nowadays for anyone to move the New Year to some other date. That’s a shame, really.