History of the Calendar

Calendar

The calendar was created so we can determine how many days until a certain event takes place or how long since something happened.

The earliest calendars were strongly influenced by the geographical location of the people who made them. In colder countries, the concept of the year was determined by the end of winter. But in warmer countries, where the seasons are less pronounced, the Moon became the basic unit for time.

Most of the oldest calendars were lunar calendars, based on the time interval from one new moon to the next a so-called lunation.

The Egyptian Calendar
The ancient Egyptians used a calendar with 12 months of 30 days each, for a total of 360 days per year. About 4000 B.C. the Egyptians added five extra days at the end of every year to bring it more into line with the solar year.

These five days became a festival because it was thought to be unlucky to work during that time.

The Egyptians had calculated that the solar year was actually closer to 365 1/4 days and they let the one-quarter day accumulate. After 1,460 solar years, 1461 Egyptian years had passed. This means that as the years passed, the Egyptian months fell out of sync with the seasons, so that the summer months eventually fell during winter. Only once every 1,460 years did their calendar year coincide precisely with the solar year.

In addition to the civic calendar, the Egyptians also had a religious calendar that was more closely linked with agricultural cycles and the movements of the stars.

Lunar Calendars
During antiquity, the lunar calendar was based on a 19-year period, with 7 of these 19 years having 13 months. In all, the period contained 235 months. Even the 19-year period required adjustment, but it became the basis of the calendars of the ancient Chinese, Babylonians, Greeks, and Jews.

This same calendar was also used by the Arabs, but Muhammad later forbade shifting from 12 months to 13 months, so that the Islamic calendar, even today, has a lunar year of 354 days. As a result, the months of the Islamic calendar, as well as the Islamic religious festivals, migrate through all the seasons of the year.

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