Monday, May 25, 2009

French Republican Calendar

I have to say, for me, sometimes the most fascinating aspects of history aren't the people or the great conflicts, but the different ways people choose to do things when starting with a clean slate.

Take revolutionary France. Once the revolutionaries took control of the country, they started what's now called the "Dechristianisation of France," one aspect of which was the proposal of an entirely new calendar to replace the current Pope-ordianed Gregorian calendar (which we use in the US). Reading about it, a new system would make sense.

Why do we have such a messed up calendar system now? Here are some of the Gregorian calendar's problems, taken from Wikipedia's article on calendar reform:

* It is not perpetual. Each year starts on a different day of the week and calendars expire every year.
* It is difficult to determine the weekday of any given day of the year or month.
* Months are not equal in length nor regularly distributed across the year, requiring mnemonics (e.g. “Thirty days hath September…”) to remember which month is 28, 29, 30 or 31 days long.
* The year’s four quarters (of three full months each) are not equal (being of 90/91, 91, 92 and 92 days respectively). Business quarters that are equal would make accounting easier.
* Its epoch (origin) is not religiously neutral. The same applies to month and weekday names in many languages.
* Each month has no connection with the lunar phases.

I don't care about religious neutrality, even though I'm not religious myself. Christmas isn't rooted in Christianity and most Christians don't seem to mind, why should I mind that my calendar is?

There are a lot of proposed alternate calendars, but only two are seriously considered. The World Calendar, which has 12 months, and two days: Leapyear Day and Worldsday. Those days aren't part of any month, they stand alone as "intercalary days". Each quarter has the same number of days (91), weeks (13) and months (3). 8 months have 30 days, 4 have 31.

Then there's the International Fixed Calendar, which has 13 months that are 28 days each, with one standard intercalary day, placed at the end of the year. Leap day is intercalary as well, and falls after June. The extra month, by the way, is called "Sol," and falls between June and July. This was the official calendar of the Eastman Kodak Company from 1928 to 1989, and it's referred to by some as the Eastman plan.

The main arguments against any calendar change are, firstly, about the general disruption it would cause. There would be a lot of confusion. Of course, many religious groups are against any sort of calendar change, as it would disrupt the dates of their holidays and holy times. The World Calendar and the International Fixed Calendar both have days outside of calendar weeks, yet religions would still have to worship every seven days, throwing them off the days of the week. Also, the International Fixed Calendar has 13 months--13 is a prime number and therefore wouldn't break into quarters, so not good for bookkeeping. Oh, and every month has a Friday the 13th (OH NO!!!!). The good thing is, with technology, converting calendar dates wouldn't be any harder than changing currency is today. A few keystrokes into most spreadsheet apps, or even into Google, and you're good to go.

Really, I'd be down for a completely numeral system. Instead of July 30th, we would have 211 (the 211th day of the year). You can divide that by whatever base you want to assign weekdays, months or whatever. Okay, so that's kind of stupid, but it's so simple, and if we kept that number handy, it'd be that much easier to convert to it other calendars. Leap day would be put to the end of the year, of course. Then again, why not a four-year, 1,461-day cycle? Hmm, I think I'm on to something, I'd better call the President.

Till then,


PS-I'm such a dork, I really love digging through this stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment