Here’s something you probably haven’t heard about — mainly because no one’s talking about it, and almost no one cares… Calendar reform — fixing the calendar, that is.
(Keep reading, or just scroll down to make fun of my proposal.)
If you have ever seen a calendar, you’re likely aware that it’s designed poorly. There are four different lengths for months (28, 29, 30, and 31 days), only three of which are used each year. Weeks don’t match up with months in any way (except three-of-four Februarys), and of course, weeks don’t match up with years.
This is why Christmas and July Fourth (and New Year’s Day, and any other dated holidays) are on different days of the week each year. It’s why Labor Day and Thanksgiving have a different calendar date every year.
There have been efforts in the past — some implemented — to “fix” the calendar. Perhaps the most well-known examples are the Julian Calendar (introduced in 45 B.C.) and the subsequent fix called the Gregorian Calendar (AD 1582), which we still use today.
Some parts of time measurement simply can’t be changed, until we figure out how to move planets and stars. So the length of a day is set in stone. Same with the length of a year. All the rest of it is arbitrary — simply made up. Weeks don’t have to be seven days long; it just seems right because we’ve done it for so long. Months, though originally based on the lunar cycle, are also arbitrary in length. A lunar cycle is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes long. None of our months fit that (or could possibly fit it).
There are several ideas circulating (albeit slowly) right now, for fixing the current calendar (see some of them here). One such idea is the Hanke-Henry Calendar. It changes the lengths of certain months, so months will only be 30 or 31 days long (no more 28 or 29). It also fixes the date/week issue — each date would be the same day of the week every year (Christmas would always be Sunday; July 4 would always be Wednesday, etc.) It gives us a year of 364 days, which is divisible by seven. It means that every few years we’d have to add a week to the calendar, to keep it matched up with seasons.
Not a bad effort, but it still means that weeks don’t match up with months.
Another proposal, discussed at length by the League of Nations and United Nations was the World Calendar. Its problem, of course, is that it added days to some weeks. Not only is this nonsensical — some weeks were seven days; others were eight days — but it met huge resistance from Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all of which believe that a seven-day week was ordained by their deity.
Personally, I don’t care about the length of the week, other than it should be consistent. Five days? Eight days? It doesn’t matter, as long as every week is the same length. Honestly, I don’t believe God was saying (in the Fourth Commandment) that a week has to be seven days long; just that a day should be set aside specifically for him. Regardless, my own proposal (see below) doesn’t change the length of the week.
1) Weeks are seven days long. No point in changing that; it’s arbitrary, but it works.
A year, which can’t be changed significantly because of the Earth’s orbit, isn’t divisible by seven, but 364 IS divisible by seven. It gives you exactly 52 weeks. (The current calendar has 52 weeks and one day for each normal year, or 52 weeks and two days for each Leap Year.) So…
2) Years are 364 days long.
And I still haven’t seen any good reason why months have to be 30 and 31 days long in these other proposals. It doesn’t fix the problem; it just changes the problem. The problem is that we have 12 months. Neither 365 nor 364 is divisible by 12. However, 364 is divisible by 13, giving you exactly 28 days per month. So…
3) Months are 28 days long. Every time.
This means there are 13 months in a year. So far, the only objection to this idea has been that “13 is unlucky”. But do we really want to avoid a rational calendar simply because some people suffer from Triskaidekaphobia? A related complaint is that my calendar would mean every month has a “Friday the 13th”, something that has its own named phobia, related to Triskaidekaphobia. (On the other hand, some cultures consider 13 and Friday the 13th to be lucky.) But this isn’t related to calendar reform; it’s related to the study of phobias, and therefore mental illness.
Points 1-3 above mean that weeks match up with months and weeks match up with years. Every month is the same length. Every day/date combination would be the same each year. The first of every month would always be Sunday, and the 28th (last day) of every month would always be Saturday. So, for example, Christmas would always be Wednesday, and my birthday would always be on a Friday.
The problem with my calendar proposal is that it doesn’t match up with the Earth’s 365.25-day journey around the sun, which because of axial tilt gives us our four seasons. So, if my calendar was adopted, our seasons would start moving to funny places around the calendar. After four years, we’d be five days off. After 24 years, we’d be 30 days off. And so on. Keep it up long enough, and summer would be in January for the northern hemisphere, while winter would be in July.
I was tempted to answer this by saying “get used to it”, but a more rational answer is the “Leap Month”. “Ah!” you say. “Isn’t that part of the problem with the other calendars!” No. Leap days, leap years, whatever, are required because our planet’s year isn’t divisible by our planet’s day.
4) Add a 28-day month every 22 or 23 years.
These “Leap Years” would be just like the other years, except with 14 months instead of 13 months. All the days and weeks would still match up. And it would ensure that the “official” seasons are never more than a few weeks off.
Why “22 or 23″? Well, if you just made it every 22 years, the seasons will still eventually get off-track, though less noticeably. Once in a while, it would have to be 23 years instead of 22.
Would this be more difficult to keep track of than our current leap years? Possibly. But the average person on Earth wouldn’t have to worry about it more than three or four times in their lifespan. Someone born tomorrow would have to live till their late 80s to see the fourth one.
Question: What happens to a person born in Month 14 on Leap Year? Do they not have birthdays during the other 20-something years?
Answer: Same as anyone born on Feb. 29 in our current leap years. (First, it’s a very small percentage of the population. Second, they were born on the 60th day of the year, so in other years their birthdays would be March 1.) If you’re born in one of my proposed Month 14s, you could celebrate your birthday whenever you wanted. It’s not that big of a deal. Using our current calendar, I was born on a Wednesday, but my birthday’s on a different day of the week each year. Many times I’ve had to work on my birthday, so the celebration is a few days later or earlier. We’re all accustomed to this already.
Since the Month 14 would be so rare (three or four in your entire life; five if you’re very lucky), it might as well be special. Make a couple of holidays for it that no one would be required to participate in, but could if they want.
Question: Do you think your calendar will ever be adopted?
Answer: No. Humans are not known for being rational. (See mention of 7-day weeks and the number 13 above.) Of all the calendar reforms currently being proposed, this one is the least confusing and makes the most sense mathematically. That’s why it would never be adopted.
Question: Doesn’t proposing this idea make you seem like a crackpot?
Answer: Yes, it does. People who propose things like this are indeed viewed as crackpots, eccentric, flaky, fruitcakes, oddballs, etc. Like the guy who proposed the 10-hour day (it makes way too much sense).
However, unlike other people proposing calendar reform, I’m not a crackpot.
Question: What’s the difference between you and them?
Answer: The difference is that I don’t care. I don’t care enough to lobby anyone about changing the calendar. I don’t think it’s a life-or-death matter. I’m going to forget all about this tomorrow, and complain about something else. While the other guys (crackpots) have devoted entire websites to their ideas, written books about it, come up with astronomical comparison charts and train schedule graphs, and so on. They’ve written letters to Congress and the United Nations.
Question: Then why write about it at all?
Answer: Because I think about stuff like this when my brain isn’t otherwise occupied. If I don’t write it down, my brain will keep going over and over it. Once I do write it down, then I can be done with it.