“Nowadays calendar is (V. G. Belinsky, Folk
Calendar, 1836) All of
us remember the famous novel of Daniel Defoe about the adventures of Robinson
Crusoe, who used one of the most ancient calendars we know. After spending 14
days on a desert island, he nailed a board on the tetrahedron column, where he
made nicks every day. The 7th nick was the longest one: it was Sunday
and only the nick of the first day of every month was longer.
“Nowadays calendar is
(V. G. Belinsky, Folk Calendar, 1836)
All of us remember the famous novel of Daniel Defoe about the adventures of Robinson Crusoe, who used one of the most ancient calendars we know. After spending 14 days on a desert island, he nailed a board on the tetrahedron column, where he made nicks every day. The 7th nick was the longest one: it was Sunday and only the nick of the first day of every month was longer.
Actually the Crusoe’s idea wasn’t new. Such calendars were used in America, Africa and Asia many years before. In Russia similar calendars looked like a hexahedron stick with a thickening in the middle. People made nicks on its margins and in front of some nicks they signalized religious holidays.
The word “calendar” came from the Latin word calendarium, which means “a debts’ book”. In Ancient Rome people, who had debts, paid them out on the first day of every month.
Calendars appeared long time ago and it is impossible to fix the day of their birth exactly. There was a great amount of calendars, which had a lot of differences. Such calendars as a moon calendar, a heliacal calendar, sand one and some mixed calendars (for example, a heliacal-moon calendar) are considered to be the long-livers.
One of the simplest calendars was a knot’s calendar. For instance, it was used by the Persian Tsar Dary I, who lived about 2,5 thousand years ago. Once, preparing to the conquest of new lands, he gave his comrades (who waited for him on the opposite bank of the Danube) a belt with 60 knots and ordered them to untie one knot every day. He said that they must return home if he didn’t come until the last knot would be untied. But Dary returned earlier and he saved.
The Egyptian calendar, which appeared 6 thousand years ago, looked like the modern one. The Egyptian year was divided into 3 seasons, which consisted of 4 months (12 months in total). These seasons were connected with the Nile’s overflow and the crop’s sowing and gathering. Each month contained 30 days and was devoted to the gods and holidays. It consisted of 3 weeks and each week contained 10 days. There was the difference between an astronomic year (365 days) and a calendar year (360 days) in Egypt. Those 5 days were declared as holidays and were devoted to the children of Hut (the sky’s goddess) and Geb (the ground’s god): Osiris, Gor, Seta, Isida and Neftida.
The Egyptian Tsar Ptolemey III Everget wanted every fourth year to be declared as a leap-year. The new calendar was called the alexandrine calendar, because the capital of Egypt was Alexandria. However his plan wasn’t realized: the priests refused to adopt such innovation.
The Egyptian calendar is considered to be the most ancient heliacal calendar. According to the moon calendar, the most ancient one is the calendar of Babylon. The year consisted of 12 months and each of them contained 29 or 30 days. Such calendar was used earlier in Mesopotamia.
Julius Tsezar’ (100-44 years BC) decided to regularize all calendars. The year contained 365 days; every fourth year was declared as a leap-year and contained 366 days. However Julius Tsezar’ added the extra day not after the 28th of February, it was between the 23rd and 24th of February. That day was called biss extus. In Russia the letter “b” changed into “v” and the leap-year was called “visokosny”.
The months’ names also came from the Roman calendar. For instance, March was named in honour to the god of war Mars, August - in honour to the emperor August, April meant “to open”. Some months were named according to their number: September - the seventh, October - the eighth, November - the ninth etc. The calendar of Julius Tsezar’ was called Julian. The first month was January and 46 year BC became the longest year in history: it consisted of 15 months (445 days). But Julius Tsezar’ couldn’t correct everything, because the official year contained 365 days and 6 hours and a real year consisted of 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46,1 seconds. Every 401 year had 3 extra hours.
The new calendar project was adopted by Gregory XIII in 1582, that’s why it was called Gregorian. 10 days were taken away and the year was called usual (not a leap-year), if its number didn’t quarter. Thanks to the New Style 24 hours (an extra day) are accumulated in 3323 years.
The Julian and Gregorian calendars are the most famous, but there were a lot of other calendars (Chinese, Jewish, Persian, Indian, Mussulman) and each of them has its own history. For example, the Persian calendar was suggested by Omar Hayam (1040-1123). An extra day was accumulated in 4500 years and it was used in Iraq from 1079 to the middle of the 19th century.
The 1st month in the Jewish calendar is “Nisan” (March-April), on the 15th of this month the Jews got independence from the Egypt captivity.
The Iranian calendar has its own distinctions. All months match with constellations and have very beautiful names: Farvardin (Aries), Shahrivar (Virgo), Isfandarmuz (Pisces).
In China the 20th day of the 12th month was considered to be the beginning of a new year. It was also the beginning of holidays even for civil servants. According to the legend “New Year” was the name of a scary monster, that’s why people used different things to defend themselves from evil spirits, they scared demons away, lighted the candles and worshiped their ancestors, Sky and Ground at the New Year night.
In Japan people didn’t work during 3 days. They saw off the New Year divinity with a ritual fire. People built something like a hut of branches; on its top they set a fan with a ring of the rising sun. Then they fired this construction and the fire’s smoke meant the divinity’s returning to the sky till the next year.
According to the Arabic mythological origins “Knowrus” (or the New Year) is the day when the world was created. The well-known encyclopedist Biruni (973-1048?) said that a man, who tasted sugar that day before saying a word, would be defended from all hardships during the whole year.
The inhabitants of Tibet cleaned their dwellings before the New Year came; they baked secret pies, on which the new year depended on. On the 1st new-year’s day people prayed, douched, then redressed and visited their friends.
In France the 1st of January became the beginning of a new year in 16th century. On that day people burnt bonfires, saw in the New Year (joining with Christmas) with their friends, exchanging the gifts.
The calendar of the French revolution is also well-known. According to this calendar, the years’ account began on the 22nd of September, 1792 – the day, when the Republic was declared. The year consisted of 12 months, each month contained 30 days. Instead of septan weeks ten-day periods were adopted. The months were renamed. New names meant not different gods or emperors, they meant natural phenomena: Nivôse – the month of snow, Pluviôse – the month of rain, Ventôse – the month of wind.
In different countries different events were considered to be the beginning of the new era and the years’ account. For example in Greece it was the day the 1st Olympic games in 776 BC and existed till their cancellation in 394 AD. The Byzantine era began on the 1st of October in 3761 BC. The Christian calendar (AD) was adopted by Peter the Great in 1699.