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Article from Page 21 of the Daily Telegraph of December 2, 1999.
(UK National daily paper).
Why Third Millennium
is coming a year early
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
WITH only 30 days to go before the great Millennium bash, the Government has a confession to make. It is being celebrated a year too early.
Pedants the nation over will be smugly satisfied to read the parliamentary answer given by Lord McIn-tosh of Haringey, the Gov-ernment's deputy Chief Whip, this week.
"The Government have always recognised that the new Millennium starts on 1 January 2001," he said. "But many people wish to cele-brate during the year 2000."
Consequently, it was decided in 1994 that the Millennium Commission would fund projects throughout 2000 and "into the new Mil-lennium", said Lord McIntosh.
He was responding to a question from the politics aca-demic Lord Norton of Louth who asked why "for official purposes" the start of the 21st century was being celebrated a mere 99 years after the beginning of the 20th century.
His puzzlement was more than an exercise in pedantry. The 20th century officially began on Jan 1, 1901, and all public events to mark its arrival took place on New Year's Eve 1900.
The Daily Telegraph of Dec 31, 1900, carried a full-page retrospective penned by Sir Edwin Arnold and entitled "The Departing Century". Christmas 1900 was referred to as "the last of the cen-tury". Whitaker's Almanack for 1901 was quite specific: "Tuesday, January 1. XXth Century begins."
Although the Government maintains that it has "always recognised" that the true date of the Third Millennium is actually Jan 1, 2001, this is not strictly true.
The Home Office has assigned an additional bank holiday for Dec 31 "in recog-nition of the celebratory nature of the Millennium". Licensing hours have also been amended to allow pubs to stay open for 36 hours. A memorandum from 'the Department of Culture, Media and Sport last year stated: "The first weekend of the Millennium runs from Friday, 31 Dec 1999, to Mon-day, 3 Jan 2000."
Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, said: "The turn of the 1999/2000 New Year will be regarded in popular con-ception as being the turn of the Millennium. It would be foolish to try and change people's perceptions on that."
The problem over dating the Millennium arose because early monks who established the system of Anno Domini did not include a year 0. How-ever, the historical date of Christ's birth is put by most scholars at 4 BC, which means the real Millennium probably fell in 1996.
There is more for the truly pedantic. The brass "prime meridian" line at Greenwich that will feature in the cele-brations on New Year's Eve is actually 100 metres away from zero longitude as mea-sured by global satellites. This could put the arrival (or not) of the new century out by one third of a second.
It could be argued - and no doubt someone will -that the Third Millennium is to be celebrated at Green-wich on the wrong meridian at the wrong time and in the wrong year.
· David Millward writes: A series of guides outlining Millennium projects and fes-tivals were unveiled by the Government yesterday.
The pamphlets, available from tourist offices, will pro-vide information on hundreds of attractions funded by the National Lottery.
Further information is available from the Millenni-um Commission. Those call-ing from England should ring:
0845 600 20 40; Wales, 0345 273 273; Scotland, 0645 700 777 and Northern Ireland 01232526690.
Also unveiled yesterday was a Global Millennium Website detailing celebra-tions across the world:
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