Thursday, 1 January 2004  
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The calendar confusion

by Aryadasa Ratnasinghe

Thirty days hath September, April, June and November; All the rest have thirty-one, Excepting February alone, Which has twenty-nine days in a leap year.

A calendar is an indispensable ready reckoner in every home, in every office and in every working place.

It contains weekdays, public, bank and mercantile holidays, poya days in each month. A few years back, in Sri Lanka the first day of the week was a Sunday, but now it has been changed to Monday. But, in all Christian countries, the old system prevails.

Calendars are a good mode of advertisement of businessmen, who print and distribute them free to their customers as a token of goodwill in the coming year.

There are wall calendars, desk calendars, pocket calendars etc., printed for the convenience of the public. The year 2004 is a leap year, with an additional day in February, taking into consideration the excess of 6 hours in every four years, determined by the revolution of the earth in its orbit.

Calendar is a system devised for the distribution of time into periods convenient for the purpose of civil life.

The name 'calendar' is derived from the Latin 'kalendae' (the first day of each month on which solemn proclamation was made of the appearance of the newmoon, or the moment when the moon is directly in line between the earth and the sun and, therefore, invisible).

All early calendars were lunar ones except the ancient Egyptian calendar which was solar.

The calendar now in use in almost all parts of the globe, is the original product of the Roman calendar, as revised by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, and modified by Augustus Caesar in 8 AD.

Since then, many modifications have been made in the calculation of time, and all calendars were solar, governed by the sun. The leap-year was correctly implanted by Augustus Caesar.

The Romans had a civil year of 355 days, based on the lunar year, but the seasons depended on the solar year, which was about 11 days longer than the lunar, and to bring the two years into harmony, additional days were intercalated.

In BC 46, Julius Caesar introduced the year of 365 days, and an extra day in every four years. He took the length of the solar year as 365 days plus six hours.

Actually, however, it was 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, and through the centuries, this discrepancy mounted up, until in the 16th century, it amounted to 10 days.

Until 1582, the Roman calendar was in use in the Christian empire, until it was replaced by Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585), who introduced the Gregorian calendar (which is now in use in most countries, including Sri Lanka), with the aim of putting the Julian error right, and also to secure uniformity as to the date at which each year should be reckoned as its beginning.

At first, only the states of the Roman Obedience accepted the new calendar of Pope Gregory, but in the 18th century, Protestant states fell into line. Great Britain adopted it in 1751, by which date the accumulated error amounted to 11 days.

So, it was enacted that the day following September 2, 1752, should be re-numbered September 14, and also changed the New Year from March 25, back to January 1.

France which had adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, abandoned it in 1793, in favour of the French Revolutionary calendar. Turkey and Russia did not adopt it until 1917 and the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church and the Balkans not until 1923.

The French Revolutionary calender was introduced during the French Revolution, to herald the beginning of a new epoch, i.e., year 1 dating from the Declaration of the French Republic in September 22, 1792.

In the French calendar, 12 thirty-day months were introduced, and divided into 3 ten-day weeks, eliminating Sundays.

This system was later abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in 1805.

The present calendar has a leap-year in every four years as in the Gregorian calendar.

The method of reckoning the Christian era, from the birth of Christ, was first invented in AD 533. From AD 312, however, the general mode of computation throughout the Roman empire was by a system known as Indictions, which were cycles or periods of 15 years.

According to the Septuagint version of the Bible, the creation of the world took place 6,000 years before the birth of Christ, and 2,250 years before the Great Deluge (Flood), the bibilical story that in Noah's time, God caused a widespread deluge to destroy all sinners. According to modern scientists, the creation legend cannot be accepted as a fact, but a mythical conception.

In 1930, the League of Nations decided that it would be advantageous to change to what is now called World Calendar, i.e., equal quarters perpetual with an extra calendrical day at the end of the year, and a similar day in the summer in every leap-year. This 8-day week brought objections from the orthodox Jewry.

The calendar year is a space of 12 months from January to December. Anomalistic year is the earth's time of its passage from perihelion to perihelion (the part of the orbit of a planet or a comet at the point which it is nearest to the sun), having a span of 365 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes and 49 seconds.

Astronomical year is the time of one complete mean apparent circuit of the ecliptic by the sun, i.e., 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, also known as the equinoctial, natural, solar or tropical year. The calendar year of 365 days is reckoned from the heliacal rising of the Sirius (dog star).

Embolismic year has 13 lunar months (384 days), occurring in a lunisolar calendar of the Jews. Hebrew year is a lunisolar year of 12 or 13 months of 29 or 30 days, in every cycle of 19 years, i.e. 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th having 13 months instead of 12.

The Julian year has a period of 365 days and 366 in a leap-year, longer than the astronomical year by 11 minutes. It began in England on March 25, and was later changed to January 1. The lunar year has a period of 12 months or 354 days, with 13 'poya' days or 29 days in a month.

Platonic year is a cycle of years, at the end of which the heavenly bodies are supposed to be again positioned in the same places as at the time of creation. Sabbatical year is the period required by the sun to move from a given star, to the same star again, having a mean period of 365 days, 6 hours 9 minutes and 10 seconds.

The Year of Grace is the Christian era reckoned from the birth of Christ, which marks the Christmas falling on December 25 in each and every year. January 1 marks the Feast of Circumcision (a religious festival observed both by the Roman Catholics and Anglican churches), celebrating the circumcision of Jesus Christ, a week after birth.

The Holy Bible says: "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee. Every male child among you shall be circumcised" (Genesis 17:10).

The sun is the central object of our solar system and the nearest star to the earth. Its approximate distance from the earth is 150 million km. or 93 million miles.

The source of its energy is nuclear reactions in the central core. Early Babylonians worshipped the sun as a god of the cosmic energy. In our ancient classical literature, sun is referred to as 'suryadivyaraja' and the moon as 'chandra-divyaraja', both powerful and implacable, awful and irresistible.

Moon is earth's only satellite, about 25% of the size of the earth. Its distance from the earth is 384,000 km. or 238,850 miles. Both these objects became popular, as solar and lunar bodies, when man began to treat them as hierolatory phenomena.

The 12 months of the year have been attributed to the following:

(1) January to Janus, an ancient Roman god or the Guardian of the Gate. He was the god of beginnings and of art, with two faces, one in front and one at the back of the head. He was known for his valour as a hero. (2) February is the month of the feast of expiation for complete atonement or the reconciliation of God and man by means of incarnation. (3) March is the month when strong beer was brewed for sacrifice at the altar. (4) April is the month of fools or of hoax of a man sent upon a bootless errand of Roman origin. (5) May, is month sacred to Maia, mother of Mercury. (6) June, the month dedicated to Junius, the god of wealth. (7) July, the month Gaius Julius Caesar was born. (8) August, the month named after the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar. (9) September, the month of Lent. (10) October, the 8th month of the Roman calendar when strong ale was brewed for festivals. (11) November, the month set apart for health activities. (12) December, the month Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem in Judea.

Among the weekdays, Sunday is the Sabbath Day for Christians to refrain from all work and to attend church which is compulsory. Monday is to deal with the prospects of the ensuing week.

Tuesday, marks the day of Tiw (God of War) similar to Jupiter or the Greek Zeus. Wednesday is the day of the Woden (the chief God of the ancient Germanic people). Thursday is sacred to Thunor, the god of thunder of the Greeks.

Friday, is a day marked by calamity, such as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum - INRI) meaning Jesus of Nazareth and King of the Jews. Saturday, dedicated by the Romans to Saturn and the Jews Sabbath.

There are different calendars in respect of different eras. The Buddhist era begins from the Maha Parinibbana of the Buddha in 543 BC. The Mohammedan era, dates from the flight of the prophet from Mecca to Medina, on July 16, 622 AD, known as 'Al Hajra'.

The Persian era dates from the accession of Yezdegird in 632 AD. Other eras are: the era of Constantinople Sept. 1, 5508 BC., the era of Alexandria, Aug. 29, 5502 BC, the Jewish Mundane era, Oct. 1, 3761 BC., Julian era, Jan. 1, 45 BC., the Saka era 79 AD, etc.

The reformation of the calendar by Pope Gregory XIII was met with much ignorant opposition on the part of the public in Rome.

It was regarded as a wicked concession to Rome, and the popular election cry was "Give us back our 11 days. However, the new calendar became so popular that it came to be adopted by most centuries without objections.


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