Wednesday, January 07, 2009

January was so long that it lasted into March

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the new year in January. It hasn’t made sense to me when I was a child. I remember when I was young a made a comment to my mother about how it was strange that every year has two winters. She didn’t understand what I meant and corrected me but I wasn’t incorrect. Every calendar year is book ended by a winter either coming or going.

Why don’t we choose an equinox or a solstice, a changing of guard of the seasons. End at an established end and start with a true start instead of making up our own. I understand that these events are not set days but they stay close to each other and are bound by celestial movement not human designation. Other cultures and other times have used planting and harvesting seasons, or rainy and dry seasons, but nearly always season to demarcate the passage of time. We choose not to start at a season nor the mid-point of a season and this has been so for most places since before the Gregorian Calendar (the one you are most probably most used to) was introduced. But there is not a great deal of reason for why January 1st starts the year and not another first...or similarly why January 1 is in the middle of the front half of winter instead of some geometrically or celestially more logical place.

Apparently calendaring is not an easy business. It starts with the moon spinning round us out of sink with us spinning round the sun such that you cant always fit months with moons and not have seasons shift quickly. So there must be the extra days and the too few days chasing each other. And the craftsman must try to get all months to have a moon and to be odd numbered to pacify the gods and superstitions. Pagans and Christians and Republicans (roman) and Mathematicians all causing commotion if their holidays and symmetries are forced to shift. And the commonest man constantly confused by the push and pull of additional days or months by papal or pontifical decree such that his birthdays are never the same and letters come in the mail dated later then they were received.

While we are on the subject, why did we stick with the superstitious Roman choice of making February so short when the Catholics and other religious folk were clamoring for a proper calendar that didn’t lose days and shift important Holy Days around. We could have rounded out the months 31, 30, 31, 30 and stuck a leap day in any day we pleased. Why 31, 28(29), 31, 30 with a stuttered 31 later on. Perhaps at the mid year point. Why even give it a month. Make it a day outside the calendar. If at the new year point it would be a day between years. Name it after a king or celebrated figure.

This may seem strange for children born on that day but not really. Feb 29th babies are already forced into cruelties like being 1/4th their true age or celebrating their birthdays on off days. We other day babies have the same number of days in each of our years but face not the same issues because our dates don't drop of the map. Worse still for the Romans born in a month that was added or subtracted often at random to keep the seasons straight. How do they age. Better to have a true unbirthday, to be born outside of the calendar and never age at all.


aaron said...

You uncover one of the problems we have with our solar system. Inherent chaos. Fires across Europe and mass panic every time an eclipse happens. We have a better way.

A more forward thinking scenario, which we have worked out, would be to move the heavenly bodies by slight amounts, syncing solar days (sun with respect to the horizon)with synodic months (moon with respect to the sun) with sidereal years (horizon with respect to the stars).

Ideally there will be exactly 30 days to the month, and 12 months to the year. 360 is one of those good old numbers with plenty of prime factors: 2^3 3^2 and 5, leaving the door wide open for inventions such as 9-day weeks and things like that.

Ultimately we would be required to move the moon's closer to the earth to increase its velocity, move the earth's orbit closer to the sun for the same reason, and decrease the electromagnetic impact from the sun upon the earth without a net decrease of the sun's mass.

Please donate to The Calendar Project. We have PayPal.

aaron said...

Specifically, we will move the Moon outward by .. *examine thumbs and fingers* .. about 2.4 Moon Radii, and the Earth we would bring inward by about 22% of the present distance which separates us from the uninhabitable regions closer in.

We are 45% toward our goal! Please donate!