What Year Is It Really?
· 16 min. read
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Earlier last year, Government House made a post on Instagram discussing different Victorian era customs. King Charles III had been inaugurated a few months earlier, and I wondered if the previous era was the "Second Elizabethian era", and what our current era is called. As it turns out, it has yet to be decided, but it will be either the Second Carolean or the Second Caroline era (as King Charles I and King Charles II had different named eras).
But, instead, I received an unexpected reply: The "eras" method of tracking time seemingly died out after World War II. This is a similar mindset that happened across the Commonwealth in other aspects too. People were no longer considered subjects who served the crown: instead, the crown was a civil servant who served the people. This is also one of the reasons why they ended up closing Government House as the Lieutenant Governor's residence for some time. Royalty no longer held the divine nature it once had.
For nearly five hundred years, England followed this "era" format, starting with the Tudors in 1485. Almost a century later, in 1582, the Anglican Church was created. This gave the Kings and Queens of England the same status in the church as the Pope. These royals were "chosen" by God, and had a God-given birthright to rule. To end this era concept because of a war that seemingly humbled the monarchy shows just how transformative the war was.
But this isn't the first time a period of counting time was replaced seemingly overnight. Before Jesus was born, the Romans didn't know they lived "Before Christ". Instead, they measure their years by either the rule of the current consul or how many years since Rome was founded. They had the Roman Calendar for the tracking of months and days, but that was different -- and we will get into that later. But, from the Roman perspective, Jesus was not born in 1 A.D. (A.D. meaning "Anno Domini", not "After Death"), but instead in the year 753. The birth of Christ was such a big event that time itself needed to be reset. Thankfully, the tools were already in place for this to occur.
By the time Jesus was born, Julius Caesar had already introduced the Julian Calendar in an attempt to correct the inaccurate Roman Calendar. The Julian Calendar was a 13-month, 365-day-long calendar, with an extra day every four years. This means that when the B.C./A.D system was implemented, we already had a calendar in place. However, the calendar had a flaw in it. It assumed that the Earth's rotation around the sun took 365.25 days, when in fact, it takes 365.2425 days. This might not seem like a big deal, but after several hundred years, the calendar needed revising.
In 1582, the calendar was revised by Pope Gregory XIII, who added ten days to the calendar, reduced it to twelve months, as well as adjusted the rules for leap days. Most countries adopted this new calendar soon after, but some held onto the original calendar, with Russia switching over as late as 1918. Many Orthodox churches still observe the original Julian calendar, which is why Christmas and Orthodox Christmas are over a week apart (the ten-day difference has drifted since 1582).
This means that while today is March 2nd, 2024, it is also February 18th, 2024. Those may or may not be the same year, depending on when you're reading this.
But as mentioned before, not all countries adopted the new Gregorian calendar. Ethiopia uses its own calendar, for example, and for them, the current date is June 22nd, 2016. It is seven years and eight months behind the Gregorian calendar. This is because of calculations done by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 A.D/C.E, which puts Jesus' birthday almost eight years earlier than the Julian/Gregorian calendars.
In some countries, like North Korea, the Gregorian Calendar was replaced by the Juche Calendar in 1997. This calendar starts in 1912 A.D/C.E. with the birth of Kim Il Sung. In North Korea, Kim Il Sung was as divine as Jesus Christ to the West. He is their eternal president and supreme leader. According to the Juche Calendar, the current year is 112.
(This photo of the North Korean calendar was taken by Roman Harak. Note how it says both year 99 and year 2010.)
There is also the Jewish Calendar. Unlike the other calendars mentioned on this list, the Hebrew Calendar doesn't start with the arrival of a diety-in-human form. Instead, because the Jewish people are still waiting for their Messiah, it starts with the beginning of creation. To them, the current year is 5783.
And then there is the Freemasons, who use the Anno Lucis method of dating, which is similar to the Gregorian Calendar, but started 4,000 years earlier when the "Year of our Light" began. That puts their current year at 6024.
In fact, according to Vivid Maps, there are over a dozen different current "years" used by different current countries around the world.
That's a lot of calendars, but they all focus on one thing: measuring the time it took from a divine event until now. How long has it been since Rome was founded? How long has it been since God created Earth? How long has it been since Jesus walked the Earth? How long has it been since the Supreme Leader was born? How long has it been since Muhammad and his followers resettled from Mecca to Medina? Years are the way we can measure time from a divine moment. It is simply a construct.
One could even argue that because the universe began 13.8 billion years ago, that is the current "year", but I disagree. Time is a relative construct, not an absolute unit. Counting time begins and ends when we say it does. Also, the human brain doesn't comprehend numbers that high, so it's meaningless, and time needs to mean something for it to be useful.
However, years aren't the only way we remember the divine: our months are also filled with gods and goddesses as well. For example:
- January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions
- February has no divine meaning, and instead is Latin for februum, which means "purification"
- March is named after Mars, the Roman god of war
- April is named after the Roman god Aphrilis, who you might know better by her Greek equivalent Aphrodite, the goddess of love, lust, beauty, and procreation. Some also say it could have come from the Latin word aperire, which means "to open" in regards to flowers and trees.
- May is named after the Roman goddess Bona Dea, or the Greek goddess Maia, the goddess of fertility. It might also be a reference to the Latin word maiores, which means "elders".
- June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. It might also be a reference to the Latin word iuniores, which means "younger ones"
- July is named after Julius Caesar, a god in the eyes of the Romans.
- August is named after Emperor Augustus, the son of Julius Caesar, so he was recognized as the son of a god. This month used to also be Sextilis, which means six in Latin, as it was the sixth month.
- September means seven in Latin, as it was the seventh month
- October means eight in Latin, as it was the eighth month
- November means nine in Latin, as it was the ninth month
- December means ten in Latin, as it was the tenth month
If you ever wondered why August (pre-name change), September, October, November, and December are off by two months than their namesake, it is because the original Roman calendar was only ten months long, with two nameless months between December and March. These were considered "nameless months" as it was too cold for agriculture. Originally March was the first month of the year, which makes sense since the Spring equinox is in March, and it marks the "beginning" of the new season from a universal perspective. However, January and February were added to make the calendar correct and account for the rotation around the sun. However, they made these the first two months, instead of the last two, messing up the naming order.
(An easy fix for us now would just be to start the new year in March instead, and have our calendars go from March - February, but I digress.)
The days of the week are equally as religious, but interestingly from a completely different religion. While Christianity is how we count the years, and Roman/Greek gods are how we count the months, the days of the week have some German/Norse origins, at least in English:
- Sunday, which in Old English was Sunnandæg, which means "The Sun's Day", in honour of the sun god Sunna/Sol. This would be replaced by "The Lord's Day" as Christianity became more popular.
- Monday, which in Old English was Mōnandæg, which means "The Moon's Day", in honour of the moon god Máni.
- Tuesday, which in Old English was Tīwesdæg, which means "Tiw/Ty's Day", the god of war.
- Wednesday, which in Old English was Wōdnesdæg, which means "Woden/Odin's Day", the king of the gods.
- Thursday, which in Old English was Þūnresdæg, which means "Þunor/Thor's Day", the god of thunder.
- Friday, which was in Old English was Frīgedæg, which means "Frigg/Freyga's Day", the goddess of marriage and motherhood, who was also the wife of Woden/Odin
- Saturday, which was Old English for Sæturnesdæg, which means "Saturn's Day", in honour of the Roman god Saturn, or the Greek God Cronus
So, if you're looking for the best day to get married, you'd want to pick a Friday in June, so you'll be blessed by two different gods.
In other languages, the connection between the Roman gods/the planet names is more consistent. For example, in French:
- Sunday is named after the Sun/Sol and is dimanche (this one is a bit tricky, but the rest make sense)
- Monday is named the Moon/Luna and is lundi
- Tuesday is named after Mars and is mardi
- Wednesday is named after Mercury/Mercurius and is mercredi
- Thursday is named after Jupiter/Jove and is jeudi
- Friday is named after Venus and is vendredi
- Saturday is named after Saturn/Saturnus, which is samedi.
(I wonder why I wasn't taught that in French class. It would have made it so much easier to remember. What kid doesn't love the planet names?)
So, our years are Christian (or otherwise), our months are Roman, our week names are Norse/German/Roman and our numbers are Arabic.
This makes our way of counting time very complicated, especially when we account for the rotation error of the planet, with it being 365.2425 days long. Instead, I propose a different calendar. The start date would be January 1, 1970. This is the start of Unix time, which all computers run off of. It's already universally standard and is nontheistic. Next, I would change the calendar to be thirteen months, all twenty-eight days long, like what the Roman calendar did. That gives us 364 days. We are one day short, so every six years we would have one extra week in the thirteenth month (6 years = 6 extra days plus 1 leap day). This way the 1/8/15/22 will always be the first day of the week, and the 7/14/21/28 will always be the last days of the week. This makes the "quarters" of each year equal as well. There will also be no need for month names, and will just be numbers. So, according to my calculations, today's date would be 17-05-54 in a day-month-year format.
Which is about two months after the current date... and that means I missed my birthday.
Let's just go back to keep using our current calendar. It works well enough, I guess.
Either way, Happy New Year, everybody!
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