January is a horrible month. We still have several weeks to go before we can welcome back our summer wardrobe, the days are short, the nights are long, all that tinsel looks a bit jaded now, and the Christmas jumpers are folded away again until next year.

January was named for the Roman god Janus, known as the protector of gates and doorways who symbolizes beginnings and endings. He has two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future. What a fitting symbol for the start of the year, as this month is our door into 2022.

Originally, the Roman calendar only had 10 months, with no January or February. King Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, added both these months to the Roman calendar to make it up to a lunar year. Even so, January only had 30 days, until Julius Caesar added the 31st day to the month to make it up to the full month of January we know now.

1st January sees a Scottish New Year tradition - the first person of the year stepping into someone’s home is called the ‘first-footer’ and is thought to represent good fortune entering the household by bringing a handful of goodies including coal, whiskey, cash, cheese, and/or bread. Sorry ladies and blonde men - in order to be considered ‘lucky,’ the first-footer should always be a dark-haired man!

January’s of the past

Here are some things that have happened in past Januarys - some of them monumental, some trivial.

On 1st January 1502, Portuguese explorers landed at Guanabara Bay on the coast of South America and named it Rio de Janeiro (River of January). It was named São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, in honour of St. Sebastian, the saint who was the namesake and patron of the Portuguese then-king, Sebastião. Also on 1st January but many years later in 1892 - Ellis Island in New York Harbor opened, where over 20 million new arrivals to America were processed until it closed in 1954.

5th January brings Twelfth Night, an English custom that marked the end of Christmas merrymaking with a toast from the wassail bowl, and in ancient Celtic tradition, the end of the 12-day winter solstice celebration.

Michael Schumacher was born on the 3rd of January 1969, and another racing driver, Lewis Hamilton was born on the 7th of January 1985. On the 8th of January 1935 Elvis Presley was born (he would have been 87 this year!).

Isaac Newton was born on the 4th of January 1643 - mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author, widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians, physicists, and most influential scientists ever. North Korean Kim Jong-un was born on the 8th of January, although the exact year of birth is marked variously as 1982, 1983 or 1984.

On 10th January 1863, the world's first underground railway service opened in London, the Metropolitan line between Paddington and Farringdon.

26th January 1788 - The British established a settlement at Sydney Harbor in Australia as 11 ships with 778 convicts arrived, setting up a penal colony to relieve overcrowded prisons in England. Also on 26th January – but in 1963, the famous Portuguese football manager and former player Jose Mourinho was born!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on 27th January 1756. From the age of five, through to his untimely death at age 35, this musical genius created over 600 compositions including - amongst others - 16 operas, 41 symphonies and 27 piano concerts.

British novelist Lewis Carroll was also born on January 27, 1832, as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Lesser known fact - he also lectured in mathematics and was a pioneering photographer.

30th January 1649 - King Charles I of England was beheaded for treason by order of Parliament under the direction of Oliver Cromwell.

And lastly, on the 24th of January, 1972 - Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi was discovered on Guam after he had spent 28 years hiding out in the jungle not knowing World War II had long since ended. Think of all the things he missed – the first heart transplant on 3 December 1967, the first man on the moon 16th July 1969, and the transistor radio - invented in 1954 - would have been a great asset!