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The Great Calendar Debate: When Does the Next Millennium Begin?

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RALEIGH — We're hearing a lot about the millennium these days. There's also a lot of confusion about just when the "next" millennium begins.

New Year's celebrations mark the end of one year, the beginning of the next. Less than a year from now, we will celebrate the beginning of the year 2000 -- the last year of the second millennium.

That's right. The year 2000 is actually the "end" of the second millennium. We cross over to the next millennium January 1, 2001.

Experts say maybe the much touted and feared Y2K computer bug has us confused.

"Just the fact that we're going to a four digit beginning with two, that has, I think, a lot of significance to people, but it's wrong," says Dr. Tom Parker, a history professor atN.C. State University.

The 2001 date is based on a globally recognized calendar worked out by a sixth century scholar who was compiling a table of dates of Easter.

There was no zero in the Roman numbering system, so he started the calendar with the date January 1, 1 A.D.

Parker says even that calendar is probably wrong.

"He tried to fix the date of the birth of Jesus, but in fact, the gospels do not tell us the year Jesus was born," says Parker.

Some Biblical scholars argue Jesus was born four or more years before the year 1 A.D. If so, we may already be in the next millennium.

"It could have been in 1994, it could have been in 1996," according to Parker.

What does it all mean? Well, lots of people are booking expensive trips, hotel rooms and parties for January 1, 2000, regardless of the more historic date of January 1, 2001.

So we're actually just a little less than two years away from the millennium change. However, New Year 2000 celebrations will still be big,ifwe've solved the Y2K computer bug problem.