Monday, January 7, 2013

A Matter of Time- Part 3

Late last year (also known as last month), a lot of people were afraid that the world was going to end on the last day of the Mayan calendar. Obviously that did not happen. Still, it brings to mind how important calendars are.

Today, anyone can buy a calendar at the store or get one as an app on their phone. They are also taken for granted. I am sure that very few people realize that if one day they disappeared, how much our lives would be turned up side down and inside out. If you recall, I talk a little bit about that in A Matter of Time- Part 1.

I mean, think about it. Without calendars there would be no birthdays, no elections, no Olympics. No one would know what day their favorite TV show was on or when their day off was.

Centuries ago, the closest thing to a calendar was the weather. People knew their were four seasons (though some societies claimed more) and every four seasons was a year. This method worked fine, for a time. The issue was, no one could set dates. People were invited to get-togethers the day of, governments worked out problems whenever someone showed up.

Picture by Linda C. Wagner

Astronomers helped fix most of the problems. They noticed that the moon waxed and waned regularly and that constellations appear at certain times. Using this knowledge, they set up the first calendars. However, their calendars vary from one civilization to another.

Jewish calendars had lunar months of 29-30 days and years of 12-13 months. For religious reasons, this calendar is still in use. Here is a website that does a good job of explaining how this works and why.

Egyptians were odd though. They had three seasons which followed the flow of the Nile River. For tax reasons, 12 standard months of 30 days were used. This resulted in a 360 day year, which is too short. So, at the beginning of the year, they would always add 5 days of feasting and religious rituals.

Julius Caesar
Quite a few Roman Emperors created their own calendars, most of which were faulty. Some were missing months or had whole weeks unaccounted for. Finally, Julius Caesar saved the day (or year). He came up with the calendar that we use today, called the Julian calendar. Even that strange Leap Year came from him.

Many other cultures and countries had their own calendars. China had one similar to that of the Jewish Calendar, but they repeated their calendar every 60 years. Mayans created their own calendar even without contact with the East.

This will be my last post of the subject of Time. If you want to know more on the topic, here is a link I found.

I have yet to decide what topic I will post about next week, so if you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments.



  1. I was just thinking a few days ago about how when the world was supposed to end according to the whack preacher. I forgot to remember that day, and when it came I missed the end of the world! Darn! But I had another chance. It was to end in December according to the Mayan calendar. Goodie! I could be sure to remember the end of the world this time. And I did remember. But nothing happened. The birds went on singing. And I thought of this song.

    1. I had never heard that song before. It's appropriate.

  2. Mr. Gibson and I were just thinking about a neat clock that we saw in Morocco. (I couldn't begin to tell you all the workings of it, but it would be awesome if you and your blog would tell us workings of different clocks.)This particular clock is no longer working and its designer died with the secret. It's a water clock. Check it out, Fez (Fes) Morocco water clock. Very neat. Doesn't look like anything we'd just guess was a clock.

    1. It just looks like a pretty wall. Would be cool if I could find a website talking about it, but I can only find an address.

  3. there's a short youtube video, but i'm not sure how much the guy knows.