A look back at the calendar on the 2023 Longest Night of the Year

On this, the longest night of year and the solstice, December 21st (2023), our columnist Larry McIntosh, has taken a fascinating look back into time and the meaning of calendars.


Some information that I found through Google. I believe there is some different thoughts on this but even though I can’t verify this, I found that it seemed quite logical. There is a lot more that could be said on the subject. Hope you enjoy the read, I did.

Historians believe timekeeping goes as far back as the Neolithic period, but actual calendars weren’t around until the Bronze Age in 3100 BC. The Sumerians in Mesopotamia made the very first calendar, which divided a year into 12 lunar months, each consisting of 29 or 30 days.

The Sumerian calendar was very different from the one we use today. Here’s how:

· One year had 360 days
· A day was divided into 12 hours – 6 “daytime” hours and 6 “nighttime” hours
· Wet and dry seasons were observed
· There were no weeks
· Each month had 29 or 30 days
· Holy days were observed on the 7th and 15th of the month
· An extra month was added every four years

Astronomy was huge when it came to keeping track of time. The Sumerians used the sighting of the first full moon to mark a new month. Hundreds of years later, the Egyptians, Babylonians, and other ancient civilizations created their own calendars, using the rotation of the sun, moon, and stars to figure out how much time had passed.

Overall, these time-tracking techniques may seem outdated, but they’re not that different from the paper wall calendars and phone calendars we use today!

Farming was a big reason why calendars were invented. The change in seasons was important since it would affect the livelihood of livestock and crops. This could make the difference between life or death for ancient civilizations!

Although, the Sumerians are credited as the first to track time, some historians believe the Europeans had a system that could be even older! A team of researchers from the University of St. Andrews found 12 large pits in Aberdeenshire, Scotland that mirrored the moon’s phrases. These holes are estimated to be 10,000 years old and may be the oldest “calendars” in the world.

This discovery proves that the history of calendars is always changing. Time will tell what else we uncover in the future!

The modern calendar is a hodgepodge of astronomy, religion, and politics from many different ancient civilizations. Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Greece, Egypt, and Rome all contributed in some way to the calendar we use today.

Nowadays, a majority of countries use the Gregorian calendar, which was invented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Gregorian calendar was seen as a way to spread Catholicism throughout Europe. Before then, people believed in and worshipped gods and goddesses.

This calendar was created simply because Pope Gregory wanted to celebrate Easter on the correct day, and the Julian calendar that had previously been used in Rome was about 10 days off.

Regardless of all these changes, you shouldn’t assume that the Gregorian calendar is 100% accurate. It’s based on Earth’s trip around the sun, which isn’t always a clean 365 days. In fact, experts believe we’ll have 366 days in the year 4909!

Common Era, or CE, is the same as “AD” (Anno Domini; Latin for “in the year of the Lord”) when keeping track of dates. It refers to year notations for the Julian and Gregorian calendar.

You may have seen “BCE” tacked on to old dates. Those initials stand for “before common era”, which is a secular way to refer to “BC” also known as “before Christ.”

There is no year zero. Year 1 is when Common Era starts, and since we still use the Gregorian calendar, it’s how we still keep track of time.

Britain made the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1752. This caused them to lose out on 11 days, leading to what some historians believe was a massive riot.

The 12 months of the year get their names from ancient Rome. Each name was based on some aspect of Roman culture, whether it was their customs, political figures, mythology, or use of Latin phrases.

January – Where it got its name: Janus – the god of new beginnings

Janus is the perfect representation of the first month of a new year. He had two faces, one that looked into the past and one into the future. Janus was also seen as the god of doors, which represents pursuing new opportunities and embracing change. Fun fact: Half of the adults in the United States make New Year’sresolutions every January.

February – Where it got its name: Februalia festival – an annual fest that promoted health and fertility

The Februalia festival lasted all month in Rome and was held as a way to banish evil spirits. The wealthy would skip work and spend the entire month praying and meditating. Wouldn’t it be ama7zing if we got all of February off work today? Fun fact: Black history month was proposed by educators at Kent State University in February 1969.

March – Where it got its name: Mars – the god of war

Winter interrupted wartime in Rome, and battles wouldn’t resume until the weather was more tolerable. This explains why March was named after Mars, the god of war.

Fun fact: An estimated 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed in honor of St. Patrick’s Day every year.

April – Where it got its name: Unclear. Some historians believe it comes from Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Others think it comes from the Latin word aperio, which means “to open (bud).”

Historians are not sure how April got its name, but regardless, it’s seen as a month of beauty and growth. If the Romans were in the midst of war, they would even plant balsam and ebony trees during this month to signify victories in battles.

Fun fact: 95% of primary and secondary schools in the United States celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd.

May – Where it got its name: Maia – the goddess of fertility and growth

In ancient Rome, Maia oversaw the growth of plants. Horticulture was a significant part of life in their society. They would use plants and flowers for food, drinks, medicine, cosmetics, aromatherapy, and even religious worship. Fun fact: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Mother’s Day was first observed on May 10, 1908.

June – Where it got its name: Juno – the goddess of love and marriage

Midsummer was important in ancient Rome as it was a time where powerful families would arrange marriages. June was a very popular month for these weddings, which is why it was named after the goddess of love and marriage. Fun fact: $20 million is spent every year on Father’s Day, which is observed on the third Sunday of June.

July – Where it got its name: birth month of Julius Caesar – Roman general who was famously assassinated in 44 BC

It only made sense for Julius Caesar to be represented somewhere in the Roman calendar. After all, he is credited with creating the Julian system of telling time in Rome.

Fun fact: An estimated 150 million hot dogs are eaten every year on the Fourth of July in the United States.

August – Where it got its name: Augustus Caesar – Roman emperor who was the great nephew of Julius Caesar

Not to be outdone by his great uncle, Augustus’s name also inspired a month of the year. He was a respected leader in Rome just like Julius Caesar and was even able to restore the city to its former glory following the war. Fun fact: 43% of students in the United States go back to school in August.

September – Where it got its name: Septem – Latin word for “seven”

Wait, isn’t September the ninth month? Why is it named after the Latin word for “seven?” This can be explained by the fact that September was the seventh month in the original Roman calendar. The name just kind of stuck. Fun fact: September is the most common birthday month in America.

October – Where it got its name: Octo – Latin word for “eight”

The original Roman calendar only had 10 months. October was the eighth month in a year at that time, and for some reason, the name wasn’t changed when Rome made the switch to the Julian calendar. Fun fact: October is the most popular month for weddings in the United States.

November – Where it got its name: Novem – Latin word for “nine”

Even though November is the eleventh month, it was the ninth month in the original Roman calendar. As Rome made the switch to the Gregorian calendar, no one bothered to change the names. Now the numbers are all jumbled up in the modern calendar we use today! Fun fact: 46 million turkeys are eaten every year on Thanksgiving, which is observed on the fourth Thursday of November.

December – Where it got its name: Decem – Latin word for “ten”

December was the tenth month in the Roman calendar. History and tradition were important in Rome, which could explain why they wanted to hold onto some of the names from their original calendar. Fun fact: The average American spends $942 every year on Christmas gifts.

The months aren’t all the same number of days due to the rotation of the moon. Ancient Romans based each month on the time between two new moons, which is 29.5 days. Since this number doesn’t divide evenly into the 365.2421 days that are in a year, the months are always a different length.

About 59% of the months in a year have 31 days, 33% have 30 days, and then there’s February, which only has 28 days or 29 days. The pattern alternates between shorter and longer months, with the exception being July and August which each have 31 days. Hello, longer summer!

February is short because of leap years. In ancient Rome, they used the Earth’s revolution around the sun to track a year, which isn’t a perfect 365 days. It’s actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds (365.2421 days). That extra time adds up every four years, which is why February gets an extra day.

So why does February get less days instead of June or November? This can be attributed to Roman superstition! King Numa Pompilius divided the 12 cycles of the moon across 12 months. Since February was a month of spiritual purification, the shorter number of days kept evil spirits on Earth for less time.

The Hebrew, Chinese, and Buddhist calendars have leap months instead of leap days.

The 7-day week was first found in the Babylonian calendar. It represents the time it takes for the moon to transition between each of its phases, starting and ending at the crescent moon.

The days of the week are a mash-up of many different languages and cultural ideas. Here’s where they got their names!

· Sunday – from the Latin solis, which means “Sun’s Day”
· Monday – from the Latin lunae, which means “Moon’s Day”
· Tuesday – named after Tiw, the Viking god of law
· Wednesday – named after Woden, the Viking god of gods
· Thursday – named after Thor, the Viking god of war
· Friday – named after Frida, the Viking god of love
· Saturday – named after Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture

So why do we have a five-day workweek? The answer comes from 20th century New England where overworked men were demanding a sabbath, or a couple days of rest. The Great Depression sealed the deal since a two-day weekend meant shorter hours and less unemployment.

The word “weekend” was first used in 1879. It was found in an English magazine called Notes and Queries.

There’s a religious and historical reason why Sunday is the first day of the week. Historians believe both ancient Egypt and Rome had a role to play in this fact.

In ancient Egypt, Sunday was seen as the “day of the sun” and was spent honoring the sun god, Ra. Worship was seen as a suitable way to start a new week.

Ancient Rome may have also contributed to Sunday as the first day of the week. The Romans believed that the week started with the sun (Sunday) and moon (Monday) and ended with Saturn (Saturday).

The 24 hour day was observed in ancient Egypt in 2510 BC. The Egyptians used shadow clocks and sundials to measure the daytime and nighttime in 12 hour increments. In the summer, the days would be longer. In the winter, the nights were longer.

In the United States, we observe ten federal holidays including: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

There are many other holidays that we look forward to every year as well. You may give out candy for Valentine’s Day and Halloween, or hunt for eggs on Easter Sunday. It just depends on your individual beliefs and traditions.

We’d probably go crazy if we didn’t have a universal way of keeping track of time. People would roll into the office whenever they wanted, schools wouldn’t have a regulated start and end time, and you’d have no language for telling your friends when to meet you for lunch. Talk about chaos!

Calendars keep our society moving forward. They’re a way to keep us all on the same page. Time flies by, so be sure you cherish every moment!

– 35% of people name Saturday as their favourite day of the week.
– Only 15% of U.S. companies offer a 4-day workweek.
– 48% of people feel like they don’t have enough time to do what they want to do.

The Bottom Line – The way we tell time has evolved over the years, and no culture seemed to think of it in the same way. The calendar is still not perfect, but it’s so steeped in history and tradition, we don’t bother questioning its inaccuracies.

No matter what, appreciate every moment and use your calendar to stay organized! You’ll be happy you did.