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inventing a calendar

Who came up with this stuff? *

A calendar based on a 365-day common year divided into 12 months of irregular lengths. 11 of the months have either 30 or 31 days, while the second month, February, has only 28 days during the common year. However, nearly every four years is a leap year, when one extra – or intercalary – day, is added on 29 February, making the leap year in the Gregorian calendar 366 days long. The days of the year in the Gregorian calendar are divided into 7-day weeks, and the weeks are numbered 1 to 52 or 53.

Even that isn’t good enough. Check out this formula for calculating leap years: Those evenly divisible by 4 are leap years. BUT If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year. UNLESS The year is also evenly divisible by 400: Then it is a leap year.

C’mon. That is convoluted and just plain goofy.

By the way, the answer to the leadoff question is:
* Luigi Lilio (1510-1576)

Few have questioned or challenged Luigi’s invention in centuries. But I am.

A sensible calendar takes its cues from the real world we live in. The natural world, that is.

Any of us could, and many do observe the solstices and equinoxes. These exist, repeat and are as reliable as the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Even Luigi’s calendar attempts to anchor to that.

But why 12 months? … and a herky-jerkey number of weeks in each?

Why not a straightforward FOUR periods to the year each anchored to the natural four periods defined by the easily observed SUN? There are 91 or 92 days to segments that can be understood, and that also attach us to a natural reality.

Of course there would be situations where saying, “The 51st day of the winter solstice” could be awkward. Then “the second full moon of the new year” would work well. The lunar cycle is slightly over 27 days, which would make for 3 or 4 full moons, half moons and 3 or 4 new moons in every quarter year… dividing the quarter years neatly into easily observed and described periods about 7 days long.

Somehow “The First Moon of Spring”, second or third would be a solid way to mark dates, not to mention make a great planting calendar for farmers and gardeners.

Of course saying your corn should be 53 centimeters high by the 13th day of the summer solstice, or by the first moon of summer just doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Knee high by the fourth of July”.

But give the poets time. They could probably come up with some really good stuff for my celestial calendar.

Imagine you grew up with a solid, observable, well understood solar-lunar calendar and Luigi Lilio came along proposing his mumbo-jumbo replacement. Oh my what a good laugh we would have.

This year’s Summer Solstice is Thursday, June 21st. That marks the beginning of this year’s third period widely known as “summer”. It is also the longest day of the year. From here all the way to the Winter Solstice on December 21st, the days will get shorter in tiny increments.