(Submitted September 02, 1998)
I'm 17 years old. I'd like to know when the new
millennium starts. Isn't it Jan 1st, 2001? Why do people
get excited about 2000 then?
How can I explain this to my friends? Please help.
You are right that the millennium starts on Jan 1st 2001. There is no year
zero, so the first millennium started on January 1, 1 C.E.*, the day after
December 31, 1 B.C.E. The first millennium ended 1000 years later, on the
night of Dec 31, 1000/morning of Jan 1, 1001, and the second millennium ends
1000 years after that, on Dec 31 2000/Jan 1 2001.
However, the year 2000 is when you have to throw away all your old printed
checks and get new ones. It's the year that there will be
computer failures due to Y2K bugs making them believe they have
just jumped back a century. When you buy a car, it typically has a few
tenths of a mile on its odometer, but you still celebrate when it clicks to
The main reason people will celebrate the millennium on the night of Dec.
31 1999 is to hold big parties, and to hold them a year sooner than they
would otherwise. I expect that, around February, 2000, people will start
coming around to the belief that the millennium does indeed start with
2001, and plan their next party accordingly.
*C.E. and B.C.E. Common Era, and Before Common Era,
are the deity-neutral terms for what used to be called
A.D. and B.C.
David Palmer and Samar Safi-Harb
for Ask an Astrophysicist
P.S. Astronomically speaking, the end of one millennium and the
beginning of the next does not have any special meaning. In particular,
neither January 1, 2000 or January 1, 2001 has any special planetary
or solar alignments. Even if they did,
planetary alignments have no effect on the Earth.
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