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September is the New January

Happy New Year!

Whoa, too soon, you say.

Let me try again. Happy New Year!

Yes, there’s the Gregorian calendar January 1st observance still four months away. There are also New Year celebrations across cultures and religions associated with lunar cycles and other lunisolar calendars that go back even further. The Islamic Hijiri New Year, which starts with the first month of Muharram, is based on a lunar calendar (11 to 12 days shorter than the solar calendar) and migrates throughout a solar year, currently happening in August for the next few years before it moves into July. It takes place when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted and goes back 1,400 years. The Chinese or Lunar New Year, which coincides with the new moon in late January or early February, goes back over 4,000 years. The Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah is a high holy day which starts with the first day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year. This year, it begins on September 25th and is based on a calendar that extends even further back to nearly 5,800 years. Nowruz Persian New Year, which coincides with the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, stretches to 15,000 years ago. Not long ago, I learned of Matariki, the Maori New Year in New Zealand. It is also the name of the Pleiades star cluster whose first rising in late June or early July is celebrated and has even become an official public holiday in 2022.

You can find New Year’s holidays occurring throughout the calendar year with which we are most familiar. Diverse cultures all marking the passage of time, distinguishing a new year from the old, underscoring the universal if not mystical desire of humankind to turn the proverbial page onto a new chapter.

Then there is the notion of a fiscal year which can start on January 1st, April 1st, July 1st or October 1st (or even another chosen date) depending on how an enterprise chooses to report its budgets and finances based on their accounting and auditing needs or practices.

A few years ago at ETS, we moved the start of our fiscal year from January 1st to October 1st given that the last quarter of the calendar year is peak season. It is no surprise that students complete testing requirements ahead of their college and university application submissions this time of year. By kicking the year off in the fall, we are able to better manage our resources based on this seasonality. One benefit of having an October start to the year is that annual planning happens in the summer as opposed to what can be a hectic holiday period in December. As we enter September, my colleagues and I are busily putting the finishing touches on our business plans as we ramp up towards the upcoming year.

We seem to be in good company as the likes of the U.S. Federal Government and Apple Inc. start their fiscal years on October 1st. Microsoft Corporation’s fiscal year begins in July. Every enterprise determines what makes most sense.

Academic years in North America, Europe and elsewhere start around late August or early September with much back-to-school fanfare. For teachers and administrators, it’s new students and lesson plans. For students it’s new classes, clothes and friends. For parents, it’s new routines. Having been an orientation leader and resident advisor during my University of Michigan undergrad years, I relished the excitement and anticipation of course registration and move-in week. I am brought back every time a friend or colleague drops off their own child in college especially if for the first time.

The cultural scene claims this same time of year as the start of the new season, when a number of shows start their runs whether on Broadway or Off-Broadway, network television, museums or galleries. More and more folks treat it as the start of the year, perhaps just as meaningful as a traditional New Year’s. An acquaintance even proclaimed that “September is the new January.”

And with the change of seasons, it seems only natural to want to turn a new leaf. To reflect on what we’ve accomplished and consider what we would like to see happen going forward. To revisit goals set earlier in the year and revise as needed. Or to set new ones altogether. To express gratitude for what has transpired and to welcome what is yet to reveal itself. To live a full and fulfilling life with the same number of minutes we are all granted in a year: 525,600 (popularized by the song Seasons of Love from the Broadway Musical turned movie turned live TV special, RENT).

So Happy New Year! May it be joyful, productive and prosperous.

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