Timekeeping has always been a challenge to mankind, particularly when it comes to calendars. The first calendars – and current calendars – are built around 24-hour days, but as the Earth wobbles around its yearly orbit it doesn’t add up to an exact number of days. This results in what’s called “calendar drift.”
The Julian calendar introduced by Julius Caesar went a long way to correcting calendars getting out of step with seasons, but didn’t fix the problem entirely; the Julian calendar had a “drift” of around eight days over the course of a millennia.
The Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582, to a large degree corrected the drift. Ten days, 11 minutes and 15 seconds were deleted to realign the seasons.
We’re still dealing with the fallout from the move in many ways. Take Washington’s birthday – he was born on Feb. 11, 1731 under the Julian calendar, but when the Gregorian calendar kicked in his birthday was translated to Feb. 22. The result has been sort of a mashup in which we have Washington’s birthday and President’s Day, technically reserved for Washington, falling on different days.
But tinkering with the calendar was not over. Following World War II there was a serious push for the adoption of a World Calendar. The Sylva Herald examined the issue in its Aug. 18, 1949 edition:
“The World Calendar Association is making a determined effort to get the World Calendar adopted and put into force by Dec. 30. The plan for revising the calendar is due to come up next month. One major reason presented for wanting the new calendar is that the present calendar was amended in 1582 to conform with the seasons and was not adjusted in its irregular arrangement. The irregularity, with corresponding changes every year, is said to bring difficulties and confusion on a worldwide basis. The leaders in the movement list extra costs to the governments of the world in trying to operate under the old calendar. Some 500 plans have been submitted, but the one that has gotten approval from all participants throughout the world is as follows:
1. Every year begins on Sunday, a January 1.
2. Each quarter year has 3 months or 13 weeks or 91 days.
3. In each quarter: the first month totals 31 days and begins on Sunday; the second month of 30 days begins on Wednesday; the third month, also of 30 days begins on Friday. This arrangement recognizes a harmonious variety.
4. Days and dates always agree from year to year.
5. Each month has 26 weekdays, plus Sundays.
6. The week keeps to the familiar order of days beginning with Sunday.
7. Months have their irregular number of weekdays including Sundays.
8. Every year has an even 52 weeks, plus the one or two new world holidays.
9. Holidays and anniversaries are stabilized on their regular days and dates. Christmas would always be on Monday, Thanksgiving on Thursday, Fourth of July on Wednesday.
10. Religious feast days, such as Easter, are left to the decision of the churches.
11. Perfect coordination is attained among the different calendar units at the end of every quarter year and the year itself.
12. Every year and quarter are comparable from year to year.
13. To secure the stability of the calendar, at the same time retain the accuracy of the length of the year that it takes the Earth to make a complete revolution around the sun, the 365th day follows Saturday, Dec. 30. With the old Dec. 31 changed to the new Worldsday, which fall outside the week yet belongs to the last month of the outgoing year dated W or 31 December, it becomes the closing day of every year. Worldsday is considered a world holiday.
14. Leap year day, the 366th day, follows Saturday, June 30 and is considered another world holiday in leap years. It is the new Leapyear Day, W or 31 June. Both the days stabilize the calendar, making it the same from year to year. This is comparable to the International Date Line at which point a day is gained or lost, that was essential in the establishment of Standard Time and is now used throughout the world.
All of us will watch with interest the proposals that have been made for changing our calendar.”
The World Calendar Association was founded by Elisabeth Achelis in 1930. After WWII legislation was adopted by the U.S. Congress on the matter, but it was considered that as a World Calendar, the United Nations would be the obvious body to enact calendar reform.
Following World War II, Achelis solicited worldwide support for The World Calendar. As the movement gained international appeal with legislation introduced in the United States Congress, awaiting international decisions, Achelis accepted advice that the United Nations was the proper body to act on calendar reform. In 1955 before that body, the U.S. put off the calendar’s adoption. In 1956 the World Calendar Association, Inc., was dissolved. It was reorganized in 2005 and still hopes for adoption of The World Calendar.
Time will tell.