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MILLENNIUM COUNTDOWN -- WHEN DOES IT END?

Everywhere you look today, you see "millennium" or "century" references.

Politicians talk about starting off the "next millennium" or "century" on the "right foot." Magazines have already come out with their "best of the millennium lists."

Even the Y2K bug that will supposedly send us back into total anarchy (as some pessimists have so eloquently stated) has been labeled the millennium bug.

I hate to spoil all those millennium party plans, but the true millennium starts on Jan. 1, 2001. That means politicians have another 15 months to argue about the best way to build a "bridge to the 21st century." And magazines compiling "millennium lists" have an additional 12 months for the top news story of the millennium or century to break.

The rationale is really quite simple.

First, one must agree that the word millennium accounts for exactly 1,000 years. Now, the first year of the A.D. calendar stands for the birth of Jesus Christ (A.D., or anno domini, is Latin for in the year of our Lord). It would be understood that from the time Jesus was born, that would be A.D. 1, and that there was no 0 A.D. Since we started with A.D. 1, the first year would be completed at the end of year one, the first century at the end of A.D. 100, the first millennium at the end of A.D. 1000, and the second millennium at the end of A.D. 2000. By this logic, as of Jan. 1, 2001, we will have completed exactly 2,000 years and will be ready to enter the third millennium with one kickin' turn-of-the-millennium party.

Many people argue this fact by using an analogy to our own life spans. We celebrate our first birthday not on the day we are born, but on the day that we have completed exactly one year of our lives. When we become one year old, we have lived exactly one year. Or, by yet another analogy, when our world turns 2000, it will have "lived" for 2,000 years and have completed two millennia.

Yet people overlook one small detail while arguing for this way of thinking. The Gregorian calendar we follow can be traced back to some sixth century monk. And interestingly enough, the concept of zero didn't materialize until the eighth century.

Then there are the religious types who are saying the new millennium will come with Armageddon, 2000 years after the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet historians have discovered that Jesus was actually born around 4 B.C. So, according to these doomsayers, we should have been dead by Dec. 31, 1997. I don't know about you, but I'm still here.

But since society is transfixed by round numbers, most people will celebrate the new millennium this Dec. 31. Perhaps it's best to figure on two really great millennium parties. I'll gladly agree to that.

Matt Nagowski is a junior at Orchard Park High School.

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