When New Year’s Was New — Plus: New Cards Coming for the Hacked!


When New Year’s Was New — Plus: New Cards Coming for the Hacked!

The History and Evolution of New Year Celebrations

New Year’s Historical Beginnings

Delving into the spirit of the holidays, we’ve shifted our focus from “hard news” topics to bring you stories centered on festive themes. This week, we explore “New Year’s History and Card Security,” diving deep into the past of New Year celebrations and paralleling it with modern-day card safety concerns.

January’s Origin and The Roman Calendar

For example, did you know that January wasn’t always the first month in the year? Originally, when the Romans had a lunar-based calendar, there were ten months in the year (hence, the roots of month-names like “September” when it was the 7th month, or “December” when it was the 10th!) And the new year came in March!

Julius Caesar introduced January and February to the calendar, but the Senate swiftly assassinated him for his efforts. He named January after “Janus,” the god of gates and thresholds, making it our entrance to the new year. However, it wasn’t until roughly 17 centuries later that England officially recognized January as the start of the new year.

Modern Traditions: The New York Ball Drop

As for other more recently-acquired traditions, New York didn’t have its “ball drop” until around 1908. New York Times publisher Alfred Ochs was trying to attract revelers into upper Manhattan with fireworks, in previous years, but the hot ashes created too many problems, so the NYPD banned the practice. Ochs then struck on the idea of borrowing a practice from the U.S. Naval Observatory, and dropping a ball, to mark the precise moment. Additionally, Ochs thought to combine it with the “newfangled” phenomenon of electricity, to make it bright and, well, firework-like.

Dick Clark and network specials would still be some decades into the future.

A Note on Card Security and Holiday Shopping

The Target Card Hack Aftermath

But not so far into the future is a little piece of news, after all. Of course, the infamous “Target card hack” happened over this same holiday period, and we will be following up on that, and its ramifications for American card security, in the new year.

For now, though, note that many people received “new cards for Christmas” in the words of Exchange Bank VP Brad Hunter. He doesn’t mean greeting cards — he’s referring to new credit and debit cards.

Banks’ Proactive Measures

Transitioning into a responsive mode, many banks and credit unions are proactively closing old numbers and issuing new cards to those customers and members who shopped at Target during the problematic period. Interestingly, they’re taking these measures without awaiting customer requests. Consequently, this decision, given its timing, has impacted card usage during holiday travels and gift purchases, and might even influence buying trends for post-holiday sales.

Many banks allow customers to use their old cards until deactivation, as highlighted in a recent article on the topic. Consequently, these banks will likely close accounts and issue new cards either in late January or February, aligning more closely with the original “new year” date.

Advice for Merchants: Navigating the Card Transition

From a merchant’s perspective, consider that while your customers might want to make purchases, they could find themselves navigating a personal “card transition,” particularly if their banks proactively replace their cards.

It could behoove you to make sure you customers have all their “non-card” options for  paying you — eChecks and the like — as back up!

Looking Forward to 2014

But more on this in the new year! Janus the gatekeeper is waiting for you to step through to a happy 2014!