Some months ago the New Yorker carried a "Millennium Travel Advisory"—a special advertising section concerning a "Global Party." "Talk about the mega super-event of our times," it said. "Where will you be on the ultimate New Year's Eve, when the big door swings open on a new era?" The ad touted destinations from Nantucket to Nepal, and it suggested that Bill Gates will be hosting a New Year's Eve bash on Fiji near the international date line.
All the hoopla surrounding January 1, 2000, is rather arbitrary, of course, especially given the vagaries of calendar-making. The practice of numbering years consecutively from the supposed year of Christ's birth didn't take hold in Western Christendom until the eighth century. And there were various ways of reckoning the start of the year in medieval Europe. In England, for example, the year began on December 25 and then, from the 14th century until the 18th, on March 25.
Douglas F. Ottati is professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia. This is the fourth in a series of articles on the millennium.