- According to the Ethiopian calendar, a year has 365 days, six hours, two minutes and 24 seconds.
- The gregorian calendar was first implemented by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. However, this calendar had an inbuilt error of 1 day every 128 years, due to a miscalculation of the solar year by 11 minutes.
A calendar is a system of organizing days, months, and years for measuring, recording, and keeping time which can be used for social, religious, commercial, or administrative purposes. It allows users to organize/schedule tasks and keep diaries for some specific period of time. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months, and years. The name given to each day is known as a date. Periods in a calendar such as years and months are usually synchronized with the cycle of the sun or the moon. Many civilizations and societies have devised a calendar, usually derived from other calendars on which they model their systems, suited to their particular needs.
There are diverse methods used in creating calendars. Some calendars replicate astronomical cycles according to fixed rules, others are based on abstract, perpetually repeating cycles of no astronomical significance. But the most popular calendars are those that use the solar and lunar systems to create calendars.
A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the earth’s position on its revolution around the sun. Solar calendars assign a date to each solar day. A day may consist of the period between sunrise and sunset, with a following period of the night, or it may be a period between successive events such as two sunsets. The length of the interval between two such successive events may be allowed to vary slightly during the year, or it may be averaged into a mean solar day. Solar calendars consist of 365 or 366 (during leap year) days within a year.
Not all calendars use the solar year as a unit. A lunar calendar is one in which days are numbered within each lunar phase cycle. The Islamic calendar is one of the most popular calendars that use the lunar system. It consists of 12 months of 29 or 30 days each, for a total of 354 days. The Islamic calendar has no corrective system to align it with the solar calendar. Thus the Islamic holidays do not always fall in the same season, and they occur earlier every year on the solar calendar.
The Ethiopian calendar
The Ethiopian calendar is based on the Coptic calendar, which is the oldest calendar in history, and originated three millennia before the birth of Christ. But the exact date of its origin is unknown. The Coptic, or Egyptian, the calendar is seven or eight years behind the Gregorian calendar. This discrepancy resulted from differences between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church as to the date of the creation of the world. Like the Ethiopian calendar, the Coptic calendar has 13 months. The first 12 months have 30 days. The last month, called Pagume, is an intercalary/leap month, which has 6 days on a leap year and 5 on the others. The year starts on the 11th of September in the Gregorian calendar or on the 12th in Gregorian Leap Years. The Coptic Leap Year follows the same rule as the Gregorian so that the extra month always has 6 days in a Gregorian Leap Year.
From the naming of the weekdays to that of the 12 months of the year, the Ethiopian calendar is greatly intertwined with biblical anecdotes. The first day of the week, for instance, called Ehud, translates as ‘the first day in the ancient Ge’ez language, the liturgical language of the Ethiopian church. It is meant to show that Ehud is the first day on which God started creating the heavens and the earth.
Owing to its complexity, Ethiopians call the method used to calculate the calendar Bahere Hasab, or ‘sea of thoughts. The calendar system starts with the idea that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden for seven years before they were expelled for their sins. After they repented, the Bible says that God promised to save them after 5,500 years. The Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars both use the birthdate of Jesus Christ as a starting point for their calculations. The difference between the two calendars is that alternate calculations are used in determining this date. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes Jesus Christ was born in 7 BC, 5,500 years after God’s promise to Adam and Eve.
The Gregorian Calendar
The Gregorian calendar is today’s international calendar, named after the man who first introduced it in February 1582, Pope Gregory XIII. Before 1752, Several countries that were under the dominion of the Catholic church had to accept the Gregorian calendar, first implemented by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. However, this calendar had an inbuilt error of 1 day every 128 years, due to a miscalculation of the solar year by 11 minutes. This affected the date of Easter, traditionally observed on March 21, as it began to move further away from the spring equinox with each passing year.
To get over this problem, the Gregorian calendar was introduced. This is a solar calendar, based on a 365-day year divided into 12 months. Each month consists of either 30 or 31 days with one month, February, consisting of 28 days. A leap year every 4 years adds an extra day to February making it 29 days long. The first to adopt the new calendar in 1582 were France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. Turkey was the last country to officially switch to the new system on January 1st, 1927.
Give Us Our Eleven Days
Among the last countries in the world to accept that they were using an inaccurate calendar were the British. The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 introduced the Gregorian calendar to the British Empire, bringing Britain into line with most of Western Europe. As a result, people living in Britain, America, and other English colonies went to sleep on the night of Wednesday 2nd September 1752, and when they woke up the next morning it was Thursday 14th September 1752. Because the people thought the government was trying to cheat them out of 11 days of their lives ‘lost days’, there were riots in villages. Eleven days (Sept. 3-13) were cut from the calendar, deleting them forever. These days simply never existed – any births, any marriages, any deaths.
It also meant that the year 1751 was a short year, lasting just 282 days from 25th March (New Year in the Julian calendar) to 31st December. The year 1752 then began on 1 January. Think how confusing this must have been to people used to thinking about a year running from March 25 to March 24, now they had to get used to the year running from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Imagine – a person could have been married on April 26, 1710, and died on Feb 2, 1710. There remained the problem of aligning the calendar in use in England with that in use in Europe.
Claims of civil unrest and rioters demanding “Give us our eleven days” may have arisen through a contemporary painting by William Hogarth. His 1755 painting entitled: “An Election Entertainment” refers to the elections of 1754 and depicts a tavern dinner organized by Whig candidates. A stolen Tory campaign banner with the slogan, “Give us our Eleven Days” can be seen lower right (on the black banner on the floor under the seated gentleman’s foot). The Tories can be seen outside the window, demonstrating.
This is a problem that has also confounded genealogists for many years. There are several countries that refused to accept the Gregorian calendar until 1752; the Soviet Union was one of them, it holdout until 1918, when it accepted the new calendar under the influence of its communist leaders, while Greece refused to switch until 1923.
Ethiopia, a country free of any colonial powers and influences of the Roman church, was not affected by the tides, and easily retained its original calendar, which claims that Jesus was born in 7 BC, and started counting days from that year on. Other calendars held that he was born in AD 1. The difference in the calendar that Ethiopia follows happened from this day forward, which is why the country’s calendar is seven to eight years behind.
The days of the month in the Ethiopian calendar
The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months in a year, 12 of which have 30 days. The last month, called Pagume, has five days, and six days in a leap year. In contrast, the Gregorian calendar has days that can be less or more than 30 days in a month. Some differences were the result of Roman kings adding extra days on the months bearing their names in their honour in the Julian Calendar, such as July and August, which were named after Julius Caesar and Augustus and have 31 days each.
The Ethiopian Calendar’s four-year leap-year cycle is associated with the four evangelists of the Bible. The first year after an Ethiopian leap year is named the John year and is followed by the Matthew year and then the Mark year. The year with the 6th epagomenal day is traditionally designated as the Luke year.
How Perfect Is Ethiopian Calander?
Pagume , the 13th month in the Ethiopian calendar, comes from the Greek word epagomene, which means ‘days forgotten when a year is calculated. This month has five days or six days in a leap year. According to the Ethiopian calendar, a year has 365 days, six hours, two minutes and 24 seconds. Once every four years, the six hours add up to 24 hours and become the sixth day in a leap year. Once in 600 years, the two minutes and 24 seconds add up to a full day and form a seventh day, which the Ethiopians call rena mealt and rena lelit.
Every 600 years, a unique star called Aqede comes out and shadows the sun, causing a total solar eclipse. As narrated by ancient Ethiopian books, Ethiopian elites knew long before modern-day scientists about solar eclipses and predicted when they would take place.
Ethiopia’s calendar today
Modern-day Ethiopia still embraces its ancient calendar. However, travellers hardly experience any inconveniences because of the calendar difference. Most Ethiopians are aware of the Gregorian calendar and some even use both calendars interchangeably.
As one of the few countries in the world with its own calendar system, Ethiopia celebrates important holidays on days that are different from the rest of the world. For instance, Ethiopia rings in the New Year on September 11, and not on January 1. The calendar offers foreign travellers the perfect excuse to hold two different celebrations for New Year’s and Christmas.