In current times we have our pick of the ways to keep our lives on track, use a calendar, a diary, our smart phones – you name it. There are any number of ways to keep the wheels of our lives turning and for the whole families’ activities to be combined in a way that we know what each of us is doing!
But we probably take the modern calendar and the days, weeks and months of the year for granted…
Before calendars existed as we know them folk needed a way of establishing the season – to know the weather and to look after livestock and plant crops. In some cases a wise person, such as a priest within the community would have been tasked with tracking stars to find out the position of the sun and to establish what phase of the year they were in. Later on important deaths, births and religious holidays would have been used to track the cycles, such as the equinoxes and solstices.
Then people started to calculate what we now know as a day; Egyptians, Chinse and Hindu people ended their day at sunrise, Ancient Hebrews measured from sunset to sunset and Romans from midnight.
It really is the Roman version of the early calendar that made way for the Gregorian calendar we recognise today. They initially started all of their months at a fixed time, they realised that the calendar soon did not match the Moon’s phases, every 2.5-3 years the calendar has two full moons in one calendar month which is known as a ‘Blue Moon’, hence the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ to mean a rare event.
The original Roman calendar was based on the lunar cycle, but then this was changed by Julius Cesar who measured time based on the Earth’s journey around the Sun. Following on from that a team led by Pope Gregory XIII made the system more accurate and the Gregorian calendar was born and is still used in most of western society today.
The process of the calendar evolving did not stop there, for example it was the Mayans who realised that the 365 days of a year was slightly inaccurate and that in fact a solar year was slightly longer, hence why we now have an extra day in certain years – known as a ‘leap year’.
But there are still other calendars in existence:
- A Jewish calendar recognises a 13th month put in seven times during a 19 year cycle. The most important day per week is Saturday – their Sabbath.
- Chinese people will use a traditional lunar calendar for celebrations, represented by twelve animals.
- A Hindu year is split into four months, based on an astrological calendar but with Sanskrit names.
- Muslims of an Islamic faith will also use a lunar calendar; the ninth month is the most important to them and features Ramadan – a month-long fast starting with a full moon.
- Astrologists use a calendar based on the movements of the planets and believe that our birth date influences our whole lives!
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