Active and lost calendars from different parts of the world – Part 1

Voxytalksy scours the history books to bring you some of the active and lost calendars from different parts of the world and how they are/were used.

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The world generally celebrates the New Year on January 1, but do you know that many people of different faiths follow calendars of their own too? Many countries and cultures calculate the beginning of their new year based on the teachings of their religion or culture. There are many kinds of calendars in this world that are currently being used actively whereas some have been lost due to civilizations that ended or merged with another over the course of history. They are currently three types of calendars in the world – solar, lunar and lunisolar/solilunar calendars.

A solar calendar, as the name suggests is concerned with the Sun, and the Earth’s rotation around the Sun (365 days approximately). Lunar calendars are based on the rotation of the Moon around Earth (generally every 31 days), while lunisolar or solilunar calendars are a combination of solar and lunar calendars which align the solar calendars along with an indication of the moon’s current phase.

Many cultures have interpreted these astronomical phenomena differently and according to the beliefs foretold in their cultures for centuries. Here is a list of some active and lost calendars that the world uses or used to use:

Christian calendars:

There are mainly 2 Christian calendars. Julian calendar and Gregorian calendar.

Julian calendar

It is a solar calendar that started its counting since the birth of Lord Jesus. It was major reform over the now extinct Roman calendar that was complicated to use. The Julian calendar is named after Julius Caesar who introduced it in 45/46 BC. It is still in use by some churches across the world. However, the Julian calendar was too long by about 11 minutes and 14 seconds each year, which meant an extra day every 128 years. By the late 16th century, this error had accumulated to over 10 days. To fix this, the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII who commissioned a study to decide how to correct this anomaly and how to prevent it from drifting more in the future.

Gregorian calendar

This is also a solar calendar that was introduced in 1582 as a reform to the Julian calendar in the Roman Catholic Church. The solution towards improving the Julian calendar was to make most of the century years into non-leap years; only those which were evenly divisible by 400 (e.g. 1600, 2000, 2400 etc.) were to be leap years. Riots were widespread among the public at that time because many believed that they had lost 10 or 11 days of life! The Gregorian calendar was first adopted in Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain whereas the Greeks had not converted to the Gregorian calendar until 1923! Currently, it is being used worldwide for most civil purposes.

It has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months. However, it is not perfect in itself since scientists consider it to be off by about one day every 3236 years.

World calendar

This is a 12-month, perennial calendar with equal quarters created by Elisabeth Achelis of Brooklyn, New York in 1930 which aims to solve the issue of uneven months and leap year days. Each quarter begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday. The quarters are equal: each has exactly 91 days, 13 weeks or 3 months. The three months have 31, 30, 30 days respectively. Each quarter begins with the 31-day months of January, April, July, or October. The World Calendar also has the following two additional days to maintain the same New Year days as the Gregorian calendar.

Worldsday

  • The last day of the year following Saturday 30 December. This additional day is dated “W” and named Worldsday, a year-end world holiday. It is followed by Sunday, 1 January in the New Year.

Leapyear Day

  • This day is similarly added at the end of the second quarter in leap years. It is also dated “W” and named Leapyear Day. It is followed by Sunday, 1 July within the same year.

The World Calendar treats Worldsday and Leapyear Day as a 24-hour waiting period before resuming the calendar again. These off-calendar days, also known as “intercalary days”, are not assigned any weekday to avoid confusion. Furthermore, The World Calendar is perpetual, there is no need to print a new calendar every year because the dates in The World Calendar occur with no more than two days difference from Gregorian calendar dates. The world is yet to accept it on a large scale but the economic savings and ease of use it offers are phenomenal because only the year number changes, everything remains the same. It can be memorized by anyone and used similarly to a clock.

Chinese calendar

It is a solilunar calendar with 12-year cycles, with each year related to a specific animal. The 12 months in each year are an intercalary month every two to three years. The New Year in Chinese culture generally falls in January-February each year.

The Chinese year is symbolized by one of 12 animals sacred to the Chinese — the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and the pig — and one of the five elements — wood, fire, water, metal, and earth. The five elements are generally rotated every two years with the addition of yin and yang (chi). The Chinese New Year celebration is a 15-day long observance known as ‘Spring Festival’, and is regarded as one of the holiest new years of the world.

Tibetan calendar

The Tibetan calendar (Tibetan: ལོ་ཐོ, Wylie: lo-tho) is a lunisolar calendar similar to the Chinese Calendar being composed of either 12 or 13 lunar months, each beginning and ending with a new moon. A thirteenth month is added every two or three years, so that an average Tibetan year is equal to the solar year. From the 12th century onwards, the usage of two sixty-year cycles was incorporated in this system. The 60-year cycle is known as the Vṛhaspati cycle and was first introduced into Tibet by an Indian Buddhist by the name of Chandranath and Tsilu Pandit in 1025 CE. The first cycle is the rabjyung cycle and was adopted from India. The second cycle was derived from China and was called Drukchu kor. The structure of the drukchu kor was as follows: Each year is associated with an animal and an element, similar to the Chinese zodiac.

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