Even if January changed many times his name in honour of various emperors, the official name January is of Latin origin. Janus was the Roman guardian of doors and also the god who protected the “new beginnings” or endings. He had two faces, one of which looked forward and the other backward. That is why January, as the first month of the year, looks to the previous year and to the new one.
In Greece January is called also with other names. The most common is Γενάρης (=Jennaris); a name which is connected with the verb γεννώ ( = to give birth) and the fact that this month the sheep give birth (something of high importance in traditional societies).
Other well-known names in the past were Kalantaris, Big Month, First, Laughing (thanks to the “Alkyonides days” which bring a pleasant break in the cold winter, but also thanks to the many feasts it brings.
In ancient Rome, the month of February was not only dedicated to the dead but during this time people also had to make their moral account and devote themselves to repentance. That is why the name of the month which meant “atonement, purification” ( = Februare) had precisely that purpose: to remind people of their duty.
In Greece, the last month of winter is also known as Flevaris, while he is also known with other names like Koutsos or Kountouros (=lame) or Koutsouflebaros (=lame February) because he has fewer days. Of course, folk myths give many explanations to the diversity of this month. Also, the very characteristic belief remains that when February has one day more – every 4 years-, the whole year brings bad luck and during this year important beginnings such as a marriage or the construction of a house or the planting of a vineyard must be avoided.
Τhe fact that month March took the name of the god of war Mars may be considered known. What perhaps is not so well known is that Mars, before becoming the god of war, had completely different qualities, including the power to make the year go well. Quite logical, of course, since in the Roman calendar it was the first month of the year, people wished to start the year with every possible positive thought. Mars, therefore, was blowing over the fields, helping land, trees and plants to give fruits.
For the Romans, each month was related to a god or to vegetation. Otherwise it was not even worth to have a name. In Greek reality, it takes also the name Gdartis because of its unpleasant and unexpected weather changes.
Also it is worth remembering that on March 21 we have the Spring Equinox and of with that the official beginning of Spring.
April was named after the Latin verb aperire, which means ” to open”. It is the second month of spring and during this month everything opens: the trees, the flowers, the weather. Romans dedicated the beautiful month of vegetation to the goddess of beauty and love, Aphrodite. This is also a reason that many etymologically combine the old name Afro (from Aphrodite) with the name April.
Although nature is during April at its best, April was considered a “cool” and rather cold month, capable for unpleasant surprises and strong winds. It is not unrelated that in the tradition of nomadic gypsies this month is excluded from the calendar and they simply ignore it because, as they say, the wind blows so much that it drifts down their tents and does not let them camp in a place.
Another unpleasant surprise that comes with April is that then the food stocks from the last year crop come to an end. That is why it was considered a difficult month for the rural population, and they used to call April Grilli (Grumbling) and Tinahtokofinitis (they used to tinker the coffers to get the last remaining wheat). But togethet with April comes also the Easter,. That is why in Greece it is called and Lampriatis (Lampri= a common name for Easter).
May is connected with the word magis (more), as during this month all the trees, plants, vegetables grow up. Another option is that May was named after the Roman deity Maja (Maya, in Greek Mea which means wet nurse). Mea was the mother of God Hermes to whom this month was dedicated.
In addition to his usual name, May also takes other names in the Greek countryside. such as: Green, Louloudos (=full of flowers), Fouskodendris, in Macedonia Kerrasaris because cherry trees are now blooming, in Cyprus ¨Pentafas¨ or Pentadilinos because the days are very long and, as they say, they need to eat five times.
Αbout the name of June there are two different theories. According the first one, June has the same root with the word Juventus (Juventus), which means “youthful maturity”. Now everything matures, waiting for the harvest. That is why one og its common Greek names is Theristis ( =harvester). Another theory is that it takes its name from the goddess Juno (Greek Ήρα), who was the goddess of marriage.
Although today it is the sixth month, in ancient Rome it came fourth in the series and it had only 29 days.
The following two months (July and August), before taking the names of the assassinated Julius Caesar and the first emperor Octavian August, were simply referred by their number (Quintilis – Fifth and Sextilis – Sixth).
In Greek reality July is the month of αλώνισμα (to thresh), that is why it is still known as Alonaris (=Thresher). Sometimes it is also called “Ai-Lias” because it brings the feast of Prophet Elias, one of the biggest in the summer, while it is remarkable that it also brings the most of the “panigiria ” (open folk feasts) in all areas of Greece.
August is the warmest and richest month. In comparison with the other months, it brings the most fruits and nuts, and in some areas it was called Trapezaris (=month of the full table), Sykologos (the one who brings figs). In Greek reality is a holiday month, while in the Roman calendar it was the last month of the year. That’s why its last day was called Klidohronia (the one that closes – locks – seals the year).
The rest of the months, September, October, November, December also get their official name from their series in the Roman diary. September = Seventh, October = Eight, November = Ninth and December = Tenth. As E. Fehrle explains: ” When the seed matures, then no one needs to beg a god for his crop to go well. Romans were realists and mainly farmers and, they did not find why they ought to devote themselves to a deity or a power in the months that there was no growth or fruiting. So they simply numbered them in relation to the previous ones.
This habit did not mean disrespect, as the Romans were really practical people and applied this method even to their children. Instead of thinking, how they would call each of their children, they named them according to their series: Sextus Pompeius (Sixth Pompeii), the opponent of Caesar, Quintus Cicero (Fifth Cicero), the orator …. ”
In addition, September is the month of vintage and new wine, so they called him Harvest.
October is marked by the name day of St. Demetrius, one of the two landmark dates of the year, and that is why it was also called Ai- Dimitris. This date was meant as the official beginning of the winter, it was the beginning or the end of formal agreements and the shepherds left the mountain to go back home.
November was called Vroharis because it brings rains. But since the most important event of the month remains the opening of the wine-barrels they also gave him the name Krasominas (=wine month).
And as last one comes December. One of his many names was White Month or Chionias (=the one who brings snow).
According to an old Greek proverb on the last day of
November, the cold becomes stronger. This day falls together with the name day of St. Andrew (a name which means: brave, strong), that’s why they use to say that “on the day of St. Andrews, winter becomes “stronger”.
December comes always full of preparations for Christmas and the change of the year.