It’s hard not to feel sentimental at the start of a new year. The changing of the calendar year represents a time to reminisce about what has changed in the last year, what you’ve achieved, lost, and how time has flown, and entering a new decade makes it feel all the more profound. But some people on Twitter are getting emotional over something much bigger than themselves: our beautiful planet, which just turned 2020, if you were napping during science and history lessons for your entire compulsory education.
Check out these birthday wishes that have people desperately asking if this is a joke or a meme. It is, right? Right?
People are wishing the planet a happy 2020th birthday
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Funnily enough, when we looked up sources on the age of the planet, the top suggested searches were “how old is the earth 2019,” “how old is the earth 2018,” and so on. Apparently, the new year gets people curious. So, if 2020 sounds like a number so large and imposing that it must encapsulate all of our planet’s existence, wait until you hear about 4543000000 (give or take a few hundred million years. When you count that high, it’s easy to be off by an amount of time that’s still longer than mammals have existed.)
The absurdity of supposing that January 1st must be the birthday of all of existence makes you wonder what the significance of the start of a new year actually is. After all, once we figured out how long it takes Earth to complete an orbit, how did we start turning our calendars to a new year not on a solstice or any astronomically significant day, but plain old January 1st?
The answer, the ancient Romans would have told you, is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. It’s the first month on the list. Or, well, it has been since it was added to come before March. February came along later. Then they debated the distribution of days between months for a few hundred years, partially driven by various emperors wanting the months they introduced to be the biggest and best ones. Miraculously, out of this highly civil, scientific process eventually came a calendar that stuck, and we think it’s working pretty well.
Happy arbitrary beginning of the unit that we use to measure journeys around the sun. May this be an educational year for all of us.