EDITORIAL: Is it really the end of a decade?
So did you attend an “End of the Decade” party last year? Did you raise a glass and toast the end of those blasted teens years and ring in the brighter and more hopeful 20s?
Today is Jan. 1, 2020, the beginning of a brand spanking new decade, right? Well, maybe not. Is it possible we have to wait another year to begin what is considered a new decade? There are many respected scholars who will counter that the new decade actually begins on the first day of 2021.
So which is it? There truly is no definitive answer. It really depends on whom you ask.
The disagreement should come as no surprise. We simply can’t seem to agree on anything these days, be it something important or inconsequential. This particular debate falls in the latter category, for sure. Nevertheless, we now offer both arguments so that you may decide for yourself.
The case for 2021: The basis of this argument is a single calendar year that happened more than two millennia ago.
In 525, a Franciscan monk named Dionysius Exiguus wanted to pinpoint the date for Easter. So he devised a calendar system called anno Domini, which was based on when he believed Jesus was born. A.D., which is Latin for “the year of our Lord,” is commonly used today.
Here’s where things get a little tricky. Because the system identified the date of Jesus’ birth as Year 1, not Year 0, there is a time gap. The lack of a year zero means the first A.D. decade started at year 1 and ran until the end of year 10; the second decade started on year 11.
Follow the pattern for 200 more decades, and here we are — still one year away from the start of the next decade, which will begin on Jan. 1, 2021.
The case for 2020: Marking the beginning of a decade in a year ending in one is not how we commonly think. When we count our children’s ages, we start at zero, not one. When we talk about decades such as the 1960s, we start at years ending with zero — not ending in one.
Celebrating the beginning the decade on Jan. 1, 2020, simply makes things easier in the present day. It’s a convention that is “pretty good for everything really, unless you run it all the way back,” according to those who publish the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
When asked, a senior editor at Merriam-Webster stated that a decade in popular culture is not defined by scientific convention. Because of this, the 2020s will begin on Jan. 1, 2020, and end on Dec. 31, 2029.
Now you have the two cases for when a decade begins. Picked a side yet? If not, let us muddy the water just a little bit more.
When does a new century begin? It would sure seem strange to say that the year 1900 is part of the 1800s. By the same reasoning, 2020 would not be considered part of the teen decade. Or is there a different standard by which we measure centuries and decades?
Remember 20 years ago when we counted down the seconds of 1999 and officially moved into the 2000 amidst all the Y2K chaos? The truth is it has been 20 years. It’s only been 19, thus the last decade will not be completed for another year.
Feeling confused? You are not alone. Spend too much time on this decade stuff and your brain will begin to hurt.
In the end, it truly doesn’t matter. Whatever it is we see in the rear view mirror is history, and the view from the windshield in front of us is a future waiting to be traveled.
Welcome to 2020. Full speed ahead.