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When is the New Year No Longer Young?: This week on The Storyteller's Night Sky

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The ancient Roman God Janus, with two heads. The one looking toward the new year appears young, whereas the one facing what has been appears aged. Museum of Ferrara Cathedral, Italy.

Recently I was asked: “When is the New Year no longer young?” to which I would reply: The New Year is no longer young when we close the door on what came before. In the ancient Roman tradition, Janus is the god of doors, gates, and transitions. He is depicted with two heads, one looking forward, one looking back. The month of January is named for him, and his feast took place on January 9th.

On January 9th each year, the Sun is still moving through Sagittarius stars, approaching Capricorn, traditionally described as the gateway of the gods. This region of sky is setting the West right now, where Saturn has recently completed its passage, and Venus is now making way, as our brilliant evening star.

By the time the Moon comes to New Phase on Saturday, January 21st, marking the New Year in the Chinese tradition, both Sun and Moon will be in the Capricorn gateway. I have heard that there is a tradition of sweeping the floors on Chinese New Year's Eve, to get rid of the old, and then not sweeping again for two weeks, to protect the good that is coming from the new year ahead.

The Feast of St. Agnes also occurs on Saturday, and it is the eve of her feast, Friday this week, that is observed as the coldest night of the year. So just as at Winter Solstice in December we arrive at the darkest time, at the eve of St Agnes, we come to the coldest time, when the inner warmth must stir, to enliven what is new.

We also approach the Feast of Paul’s Conversion at the Gates of Damascus in this season, which finds him making a complete 180 degree turn in his intentions ~ as though, once he approached the door, he realized something greater than his own desires.

So when is the New Year no longer young? When we have stepped through the door.

Mary Stewart Adams is a Star Lore Historian and host of “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.” As a global advocate for starry skies, Mary led the team that established the 9th International Dark Sky Park in the world in 2011, which later led to her home state of Michigan protecting 35,000 acres of state land for its natural darkness.