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Why Do We Call  Spring “Spring” ?


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Do you know why we call the springtime of the year,  “Spring”?

No.  Why do we call Spring “Spring”?

Because this is the time of year when new life springs out.  The leaves spring out from the dead twigs.  During this beautiful season the new year springs out from the old.   In fact, it was during this season on March 25 that we used to celebrate New Years Day.

But New Years is celebrated on January the first.

Now, it is.  Yes.  However, before January 1, 1752 AD  New Years Day was celebrated on March 25.   [see endnote 1]

Why that date ?

As I said that is when the new life sprang forth.  It also has to do with how the years are numbered.  What great event in the past is the reason that we separate our years into the two categories BC  and AD ?

Uhm.  When Jesus Christ came into the world.  Right ?

Yes.  And what feast do we celebrate that happening ?


Not exactly.  Let me ask it this way.  How many months before Jesus was born did the Archangel Gabriel come to Mary to announce God’s good news to save mankind, and to ask for her consent ?   When did the miracle happen inside the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary ?

Nine months - more or less - before Christmas.

Right.  And so what feast do we celebrate nine months before Christmas on March 25.

The Feast of the Annunciation, I think.

Right.  So, when did Christ first come to us ?

Oh.  I see.  He came to us nine months before Christmas.  And we celebrate that on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation.

Exactly.  So, the turning point from B.C. to A.D. is when Christ came into the world which is celebrated on March 25.  And New Years Day was celebrated on that Spring day when we commemorate the new Life of Christ coming into the world.  It was in the sixth century that the Abbot Dionysius Exiguus [Latin for Dennis the Little] re-organized the calendar so that the years were numbered in relation to that great event of Christ’s coming.  His system led to the adoption of the terms BC and AD.  The years before Christ are B.C.   The years after Christ’s coming are A.D.  [see endnote 2]

Dionysius began the Christian era with the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, on which we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world.    Although some have claimed that Dionysius's calculations were off by a few years some new research has validated his calculations.  The important thing is that his system of counting the years has been helpful to mankind in focusing on what is truly important, our Savior Jesus Christ.  The turning point in all of human history is when Jesus Christ became man.  [see endnote 3]
The fact that March 25 used to be New Year's Day can be easily verified by looking at the entry for March in any encyclopedia.

Some time later:

John, do you know that the months September, October, November, and December get their names for being the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months of the year ?

But, how is that ?  They are the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth months of the year ?

The original Roman calendar only had ten months beginning with March as the first month. Perhaps this was partially based on the Jewish custom of also starting their calendar year in the Spring.  Then the early Romans added the months January and February bringing the total number of months in their calendar to twelve.  The standardized calendar that we use today took centuries to develop.  Previously, there were many different calendars both secular and religious.  Do you remember when we talked about why they call Spring  “Spring” and how March 25 used to be New Year’s Day  ?

I vaguely remember.  Could you remind me again what you had said ?

Yes, of course.  Remember, it was the Christian Abbot Dionysius who restructured how the years are numbered based on when Jesus Christ came into the world.  We celebrate that great event on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, nine months before Christmas.  March 25 became the official New Year’s Day in his calendar.  This calendar was adopted throughout Europe. This calendar was used in England and the British colonies from the thirteenth century until January 1, 1752, when the present calendar was adopted there.  We continue to celebrate that great event of the Annunciation every year on March 25.  On that day we celebrate how the Archangel Gabriel delivered God’s message to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  And Mary accepted God’s invitation to be the mother of His Son, who has existed from all eternity.  And so Jesus came into the world on that day to begin living inside of Mary’s womb for nine months.

Now, I remember, but I had forgotten.  Thank you for reminding me, as I will now remember it better.


Endnote 1.
This is true for England and the British Empire including the American colonies.  This fact can be verified by looking at any good almanac or encyclopedia under the entries for March, Calendar, New Year’s Day, January etc.  There were both secular and religious calendars in the past, as is still the case today.  And these varied from place to place.  In many other countries the secular calendars were standardized into the present format in the year 1582.  Although, the tradition of January 1 being New Year’s Day goes back to Julius Caesar and his calendar in 46 B.C.

The tradition of celebrating the New Year in the Springtime goes back to an ancient Jewish tradition of celebrating it in the month of Nisan, which corresponded to the month of March.  It was during this month that the Passover Feast was celebrated.  Although the Jews currently celebrate New Years at Harvest time, they used to celebrate it in the Spring according to their ancient Passover tradition.  See Exodus chapter 12. 

Exodus 12:1-11
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, ‘This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. … every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb … it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. … you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the LORD.’ ”
[This month is called Abib, Exodus 23:15 – or Nisan, Babylonian name Neh. 2:1, – or March. It occurred in the Springtime near the vernal equinox]  

“In fact, an ancient Passover poem, used in synagogue liturgy, depicts four great events in salvation history occurring on the same calendar day as Passover: the creation of the universe, the covenant with Abraham, and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt all occurred on the night of the Passover.  And it was on this night that the future messianic king was expected to bring redemption.”  [ Edward P. Sri’s article “The Heart of the Home” in CFR, (Steubenville: Emmaus Road, 1998) edited by Hahn and Suprenant, pages 165-166, in a reference to poem called the  “Poem of the Four Nights,”  found in the Jewish targum Neophyti, cited in Lucien Deiss, It’s the Lord’s Supper  (London: Collins, 1975), 35.]


Endnote 2.
A.D. is an abbreviation for Dionysius Exiguus’ Latin phrase “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi,” translated into English as “in the year of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”  Venerable Bede (673?-735) promoted this pattern of numbering the years by introducing the term B.C. as an English abbreviation denoting the years “before Christ.”  Charlemagne was the first ruler to give it a wide usage.

Endnote 3.
In 525 AD Pope John I had requested that Dionysius Exiguus [Dennis the Little] compute a table or cycle for computing the future dates of Easter.  Dionysius produced his book Liber de Paschate in 532 AD.  He began his new book with the Easter cycles with the words  “anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi DXXXII” (Latin for “in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 532,” or A.D. 532)  [See Endnote 2 ]

In the beginning of this book Dionysius wrote a letter to the Bishop Petronius where Dionysius explains his reasoning for his new way of numbering the years.   Up until this time it had been custom to number the years according to the beginning of the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD) who had greatly persecuted the early Christians.  Dionysius wrote these words to Bishop Petronius:

           “We have been unwilling to connect our cycle with the name of an impious persecutor [Diocletian], but have chosen rather to note the years from the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the end that the commencement of our hope might be better known to us and that the cause of man’s restoration, namely, our Redeemer’s passion, might appear with clearer evidence” (Migne, Vol. 67, 1865, p. 20, “Epistolae Duae De Ratione Paschae,” English translation of Latin text).

“Christ is ‘the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the center of mankind, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfillment of all aspirations’ ”
[JPII Mane nobiscum Domine 6]



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