Keeping Time - Calendards through the ages
“Events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, in the continuous thread of revelation.”Eudora Welty
Calendars have been around for as long as people have recognized the movement of celestial bodies. It was the position of the moon, sun, and stars that first helped us begin recording months and years. The earliest civilizations made progress by noticing the amount of time that passed in between phases of the moon as well as changes in the placement of stars. Even today’s calendars have a largely astrological basis; the day, month, and year are calculated based upon the rotation of the earth on its axis, the rotation of the moon around the earth, and the rotation of the earth around the sun, respectively. An exception to this general rule is the week. Reforms to any given calendar system, and there have been many, take a long time to implement. After over three centuries of slow integration, the Gregorian calendar has finally become today’s internationally accepted calendar. Isolated calendars harbored by certain cultures, such as the Hebrew calendar of Israel, the Islamic calendar, the Indian calendar, and the Chinese calendar have not been abolished by such unifying reforms however, and are still in use within those cultures today. Unique perceptions of time highlighted in this way, add a uniqueness and relevancy to an almost universally accepted concept and emphasize the fascinating importance of culture, too.
The Julian calendar of Caesar’s time hasn’t been cast aside nor forgotten either. It is still used to relate time as we record it now, to time as it was recorded in the past, before the reforms Caesar made during his “year of confusion.” That is the name commonly given to 45 B.C.E., when Caesar inserted ninety extra days into the calendar in an attempt to fix the calendar system rather quickly. That would sure solve a lot of problems for a procrastinator! Calendars were a major step in the progression of man’s ability to tell time. After man figured out what part of the year it was, and eventually what month it was and then which day it was, it was only a matter of time before he was driven to find ways to measure the hour, the minute, and the second. Even though the limits of time measurement are now being pushed farther than ever before by today’s highly technological clocks, it’s interesting to note that the structure of the standard calendars are not being questioned. Considering all of the changes that brought humanity to where it is today, it is interesting to ponder how future changes will impact the standards by which we run our lives.
- Dogget, L.E. “Calendars.” As of: 2 Feb 07.