Calendars

In 1654, Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, having worked through the genealogy of the Bible, announced that the time of creation was on Sunday, October 21st, 4004 B.C., at 9:00 in the morning. Ussher settled on the hour because it was a "civil" hour of the day and he figured God would be civil.

Stonehenge appears to be a giant Neolithic calendar. The design of Stonehenge is such that, on the summer solstice (June 21), the rising sun is aligned with the avenue and perfectly bisects the stone circle. Stonehenge may have had other purposes, but whether it did or not is now a mystery.

The Lydians (allies of the Greek Spartans) and the Medes (dominated by Cyrus the Persian) had been locked in a five-year war in Asia Minor in 585 B.C. On May 28th, the two armies were preparing for a crucial daytime battle when a solar eclipse occurred, one that is believed to have been predicted by Thales, a Greek mathematician. When the Medes and Lydians observed the eclipse, they ceased fighting and signed a peace treaty. Incidentally, this is the earliest event in human history that we are able to assign an exact date to, due to the eclipse.

By the year 46 B.C., the Roman calendar had fallen 90 days behind the seasons. Julius Caesar decreed that 46 B.C. would be 445 days long to make up the excess, and that each year thereafter that was divisible by 4 would be a leap year, with 366 days instead of the regular 365. This is the origin of the Julian calendar.

The seven-day week bcame part of the Roman calendar in 321 A.D. Roman emperor Constantine chose Sunday as the day of rest, to please both Christians (the day of the resurrection) and pagans (many of whom worshipped one of the sun-gods of the empire).

It was not until the year 440 that Christmas was celebrated on December 25th.
The date of December 25th was chosen for Christmas because that date coincided with the birthdate of Mithras, the Persian sun-god, and was close to the pagan festival of Yule.

In 534, Dionysius Exiguus (also known as Dennis the Little), created the system, still used today, of counting the years starting with the birth of Christ. Unfortunately, he made some errors in calculation, so the birth of Jesus probably took place around 6 B.C. (Herod the Great, who is mentioned in the stories of Jesus' birth in the bible, died in 4 B.C.)

There were two Thursdays one week in 1147. Pope Eugenius III travelled to Paris, and was scheduled to arrive on a Friday. In order that the Parisians could hold a celebration on Friday, a day of fast, Eugenius decreed that that day would be a Thursday.

According to the Mayan "long count" linear calendar, the end of the world would occur on June 5th, 2012.

The ancient Mayas had a calendar that was more accurate than the modern Gregorian calendar. While the Gregorian calendar gains three days in 10,000 years, the Mayan calendar loses only two days every 10,000 years.
About 1250, the English scholar Roger Bacon (ca. 1214-1292) pointed out that the year in the Julian calendar, then in use, was a trifle too long; the vernal equinox came earlier and earlier every year. It took 300 years for most of the Western world to make the necessary change to the corrective Gregorian calendar now in use, and even then there were some hold-outs. England didn't make the change until 1752, Russia made the change only after the Russion Revolution, and Greece was the final hold-out, not changing until 1924.

The Gregorian calendar is the one in use today. Pope Gregory XIII corrected the time error in the Julian calendar (in use starting in 46 B.C.) by omitting ten days (October 5-14, 1582) and by ordaining that thereafter the years ending in hundreds should not be leap years unless divisible by 400. Most Roman Catholic countries accepted these changes immediately. Protestant countries delayed for a while. Other countries delayed even longer. For example, Greece didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1912, and Turkey until 1927.

Because the mathematician John Wallis was an extremely nationalistic Englishman, he used his influence against Great Britain's adoption of the Gregorian calendar. He argued that acceptance would imply subservience to Rome (and hence to foreigners). His view led to a long delay of the Gregorian calendar's adoption by Great Britain.

In 1752, England adopted the Gregorian calendar. September 2, 1752 was followed immediately by September 14 because the Julian calendar then in use had become 11 days behind the seasons. When this occurred, there was rioting in England, with crowds of people shouting "Give us back our eleven days!" Many people insisted they had been deprived of eleven days of their lives.
In the sixteenth century, there was no coherent way of dating events that had happened in the distant past because of the many different calendars that were in use. To resolve this problem, Joseph Scaliger wrote A Treatise on the Correction of Chronology in which he proposed that events be dated by three different cycles: the 28 year solar cycle, the 19 year lunar cycle, and the 15 year period of Diocletian's tax census. Working backward, these cycles all started in 4713 B.C., which Scaliger numbered 1:1:1. The cycles repeated every 7980 years. Unfortunately, Scaliger's work was based on the Julian calendar, and a few months after his work was published, Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian calendar, rendering Scaliger's work useless.

In 1929, the U.S.S.R. decreed a week of five days. In 1932, the U.S.S.R. decreed a week of six days. By 1940, the seven-day week had been restored.
In English, the days of the week are named after the Saxon gods. Sunday is named after the sun, Monday after the moon, Tuesday after Tiw, Wednesday after Woden, Thursday after Thor, Friday after Freya, and Saturday after Saturn.

In 1795, the National Convention in revolutionary France decreed a new calendar to educate the public to new ideas such as eliminating wasteful holy days, including Sundays and saints' days. It was identical to that used in ancient Egypt: Each year was divided into twelve months of thirty days each, with five extra days at the end of the year; each month had three ten-day "weeks." This calendar was repealed in 1805, mainly because of the confusion caused by its abolition of the seven-day week. It had wreaked havoc with the traditional system of religious observances, festivals, and market days.

The fourth Sunday in October, according to a resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1981, is Mother-in-Law's Day. To date, the resolution has not been adopted by the U.S. Senate.