THE MEASURE OF OUR DAYS
Calendars are mankind’s connection to the cosmos. The first known calendar, from around 8000 B.C.E., was found in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It was based on the revolution of the moon around the earth, a lunar calendar. There are more than 40 calendars in use in the world today, many based on the cycles of the moon. The Jewish and Chinese calendars are examples. An old Jewish book tells us that, “The moon was created for the counting of the days.”
It takes the earth 365.25 days to make its way around the sun. It’s that pesky quarter of a day that has resulted in some creative solutions by calendar-makers in the past. Some have ignored that quarter of a day discrepancy. The Islamic calendar is an example. I’ve always wondered why the Haj, an important Islamic pilgrimage, hasn’t been at the same time every year. Now I know. Some cultures have stuck in an extra few days or wiped out a few whenever things get too badly skewed.
In 1582 Pope Gregory and the Catholic Church reworked the Julian calendar, then in use, so that Easter coincided with spring by lopping off 10 days in October. Easter was sliding earlier and earlier in the year because of the way that quarter of a day was ignored by the calendar makers. An international agreement in the 18th century established the Gregorian calendar as the worldwide method of dividing up time, although several religions and cultures hung onto their old calendars for religious celebrations and cultural holidays. It took 3 centuries of discussion and deliberation for the Gregorian calendar to be accepted by the worldwide community.
The ancient Mayans could have saved Pope Gregory and his buddies all that work. Their calendar is more accurate than is the Gregorian method of dividing up the year. In 10,000 years their calendar loses two days, whereas ours (Gregorian) gains 3. The Romans were in on the calendar game as well. They had only 354 days in their yearly calendar, but their names for the months were retained. Days of the week, with the exception of Saturday, are named after Saxon gods in our calendar, Saturday after the Roman god of agriculture.
How’s that for a bit of trivia? But even trivia can have it’s uses, and perhaps what you learned will make buying your 2015 calendar a little more fun. No need to leave your home, either. Get yours in the menu bar above. Just click on 2015 Calendar.