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Welcome to the New Millennium!

By Claudia Lynch, Benchmarks Online Editor

What, you thought that was last year? Heck no, that was just a warm-up, pre-millennium celebration (and we needed to get that messy Y2K stuff out of the way too:). This time it's the real thing. If you don't believe me, take a good look at what the experts have to say:

  • The White House Millennium Council sought to answer the question "When is the Millennium?" this way:

    mil-len-ni-um (n). A span of one thousand years.

    The Arrival of the new millennium has sparked a great debate: when does it actually begin? Our instincts told us to celebrate on December 31, 1999. But logic says that every millennium is made up of 1000 years – which means that the year 2000 belongs to the second not the third. Credit for this confusing state of affairs goes to Dennis the Diminutive, a sixth century monk who prepared a calendar for Pope St. John I. Instead of beginning his calendar at year 0, Dennis started with 1 A.D. – bequeathing us the chronological quandary we face today. So what is the answer? According to the
    U.S. Naval Observatory, the third millennium begins on January 1, 2001. Evenso, most Americans and much of the world focused on the flip of the calendar from ’99 to ’00. White House millennium programs began in 1997 and will run through January 1, 2001. Greeting a new millennium is a once-in-a-thousand years experience… let’s make the celebration last!

  • The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England produced a special leaflet on the new millennium. You may not realize that the new millennium started at zero hours Greenwich. Why? Because "The 'INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE HELD AT WASHINGTON FOR THE PURPOSE OF FIXING A PRIME MERIDIAN AND A UNIVERSAL DAY' in October 1884, resolved to adopt the meridian at Greenwich as the prime meridian for 'all the world' and the time and day at the Greenwich meridian as the universal time and day for 'all the world.' In practice, this time, referred to now more correctly as UTC, is identical to what is widely known as GMT and forms the basis for our claim that the Millennium will start at zero hours Greenwich time. The same conference stated that the 'universal day shall not interfere with the use of local or other standard time where desirable.' Put simply this means that in Sydney they are not going to wait until 10 next morning before celebrating the New Year."

In case you think the controversy over when the millennium will start is new, check this out:

We [the Royal Observatory] have received a great deal of e-mail regarding the start of the 21st Century. It is interesting to note that this is not the first time that this controversy has arisen. The Times must have received many letters towards the end of 1799, since its editors felt moved to make the following comments about the beginning of the 19th Century:

"We have uniformly rejected all letters and declined all discussion upon the question of when the present century ends, as it is one of the most absurd that can engage the public attention, and we are astonished to find it has been the subject of so much dispute, since it appears plain. The present century will not terminate till January 1, 1801, unless it can be made out that 99 are 100... It is a silly, childish discussion, and only exposes the want of brains of those who maintain a contrary opinion to that we have stated"

The Times, 26 December 1799

Even here in the U.S., this is not a new topic (quoted from "I Say Millennium, You Say Milinium, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off"):

"The Post is open to conviction. We are not bigoted or intolerant. If anyone will show us how a century can be completed with less than 100 years, and how nineteen centuries can be completed with less than 1900 years, and how the twentieth century can begin before the nineteenth century ends, we shall joyfully put ashes in our hair and hail him as a wizard."
--Washington Post, 28 December 1899

If this topic interests you, you might want to check out these sites:

  • The World's largest collection of 2001 Millennium Website Links. This site has links in a variety of languages.

Does all this millennial stuff irritate you? Blame it on Dennis the Short.

A Millen(n)ial Mix-up (Culture 2:00 a.m. PST),1284,40491,00.html?tw=wn20001228 We're on our Third Millennium now but there are still an awful lot of people who don't know how to spell 'millennium.' An apparent spell- checking glitch in a version of Microsoft Word hasn't helped matters.