Magazine article The Futurist

Updating Our Out-of-Date Calendar

Magazine article The Futurist

Updating Our Out-of-Date Calendar

Article excerpt

We can start the Third Millennium with a sensible new calendar. Are you ready for a 13-month year with names like Hope, Friendship, and Justice instead of January, March, and July?

The calendar by which we measure our lives is a monument to historical prejudices and approximation. It is an astronomically meaningless hodgepodge of pagan superstition and misconceptions, hard to learn when you are a child and an awkward nuisance to use the rest of your life.

Many pragmatic people have proposed a calendar year of 13 months, each 28 days long, for a total of 364 days, with one "fill-in" day needed to make the 365 required for a solar year. Starting the month on Sunday would establish fixed dates for each day of the week; for example, Sunday would fall on the first, eighth, fifteenth, and twenty-second of every month.

I propose that we adopt this new 13-month calendar for the Third Millennium.

The Changing Calendar

The first reaction to a calendar change might be: "Sacrilege! Mother's birthday is August 31. It wouldn't be the same if we changed it." In fact, change has always been the norm when it comes to creating calendars.

The ancient Romans had 30-day and 31-day months, 10 months a year, with an occasional added month. Perhaps they were trying to reconcile the solar year with the lunar month, which is approximately 29 1/2 days. As the centuries passed the Romans added two months at the end of the year - February, followed by January. The calendar makers juggled the number of days in various months from 28 to 31 because they then had too many days in the year. Hence the mnemonic rhyme from childhood, "Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. . . ."

The Greek who devised the Julian calendar (based on the Egyptian version) knew that he needed 365 days per year to come out evenly at the summer solstice. When the authorities picked a 31-day month to rename after Julius Caesar, Emperor Augustus somehow got a 31-day month also. Was this politics or just coincidence? For the record, the Roman bureau in charge of such matters switched the order of months to January, then February, in 452 B.C. - well before Julius Caesar made his revision - but the year still started in March.

The Roman Senate awarded Julius Caesar his month as thanks for dictatorially establishing a new calendar in place of one that was approximately three months out of step with the seasons. They gave him month number five, Quinctilis; the sixth month, Sextilis, went to Augustus. But when the Senate offered a month to the next Caesar, Tiberius, he declined and asked sarcastically what they would do if there were 13 Caesars. The Roman calendar then had only 12 months, including September, October, November, and December, which were the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months, as their names denote. Now, they are ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth in our calendar.

Renaming the Months

Let us start the Third Millennium calendar by making the winter solstice New Year's Day. Astronomically, the solstice is the point at which the days in the Northern Hemisphere stop getting shorter and start getting longer - arguably the beginning of the yearly cycle of the earth in its orbit.

I suggest one ground rule: Each of the 13 months will be named after one of the finest concepts of the human spirit. Personalities, religious conceptions, and parochial favorites will be excluded. We should give our starting month the name of one of mankind's most essential attitudes: Hope.

Faith is another nonsectarian concept and an ideal name for the last month of the year. This change would appeal to the world's Christians, who traditionally have a month of faith at year's end, when the darkness each day is longer than the light. Members of non-Christian religions might regard the change with suspicion, but they can't quibble with Faith as a basic concept, and the placement of the month is negotiable. …

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