Happy New Year! As 2019 begins and we all settle into the rhythm of this new trip around the Sun, we students will inevitably begin to fill our calendars with New Year’s Resolution-related appointments, second semester projects, and other events to make January speed by as quickly as ever. Consequently, one may wonder how the months and years as we know them came to be, and how we know if the calendar system we use actually displays the passing of time correctly. How many calendar models exist other than the one we use today? Are they better or worse than the aforementioned standard?
Our Current Calendar: the Gregorian System
For the past 436 years, the Gregorian calendar has held a place as a widely-used model of dates. As it is named after Pope Gregory, it comes without surprise that this calendar holds several religious purposes and meanings. In fact, the original purpose of the Gregorian calendar was to change the way days passed so that Easter did not move further away from the spring equinox as the years progressed. While this plot is obviously religion-based, the Pope upset Protestants of the period with this new calendar for a different reason entirely: they thought Catholics were attempting to suppress Protestantism by mixing the pope’s decisions with societal affairs. It is also said that some of the Protestants went so far as to say the Gregorian model was created by the Antichrist as it attempted to bring them back under the pope’s jurisdiction.
Accuracy: A Comparison
While Pope Gregory’s calendar is one of the most widely used, it is not the most accurate. An approximate 26 to 27 second error margin exists in each year of the Gregorian calendar. Without leap years, that margin would jump to 6 hours lost per year. Other calendars, such as the Jewish and Julian systems, bridge the difference between these, with each losing several minutes per year. The most accurate calendar, while not perfect, holds a less than 1 second error in each year. This system is known as the Persian calendar, the official model used in Iran and Afghanistan.
The End of the World As We Know It…
As one can see in the data table above, the Mayan calendar holds the third place in reference to the most accuracy in tracking days of the year. Even so, one may tend to label this model as untruthful because of the false, fateful predictions it held for the year 2012. As you may or may not remember, the Mayan calendar was said to prophesize the end of the world on December 21st, 2012. This prophecy obviously did not come true, unless we are living in a post-apocalyptic society without realizing it. However, the Doomsday connotation of the 21st of December was entirely extrapolated by third parties. Mayan calendars operate on a series of cycles that supposedly correspond with galactic events. The creators of this system happened to slate December 21st of 2012 as the ending of one of these cycles. However, they never said that would be the final cycle; in reality, they only meant that the calendar would “start over.” The Mayans were simply predicting rebirth, not death. Whether or not everyone should switch to the Mayan calendar model can be disputed, but one can easily debunk the myth of the predicted 2012 Doomsday crisis.
I hope you all enjoy a slightly inaccurate, end-times-prophecy-free new year!
What are your thoughts on the differences between calendars? Could we benefit from switching to the Persian system, or is it better to keep things the same and deal with the 11 second inaccuracy? Let us know your opinion in the comments!
All images are from Google unless otherwise noted.