Wanderlino Arruda
Djalma Souto


The Calender

Last week I told the story about the Reader’s Digest editions I received, a present sent by Nathércio França. I told of the long wait I had for them to arrive and of the pure joy I felt at finally having them in my anxious hands, and the pleasure I still have in reading them. Today, I continue to take advantage of them, at the moment I am browsing through some from November 1945, researching information which would be helpful in my essay about the calendar. A little history and a proposal of change, to help our lives become a little more orderly in terms of weeks and months. Don’t be alarmed; my friend…at the present moment, no known government is concerned about these things. All are much more involved about how much money they owe and to whom they owe it, and also about rising taxes and tax evasion.

The name calendar comes from the latin “calendas”, which represented the first day of each month in ancient Rome. There have been countless ways of measuring time through history, each nation having their own method of organizing the weeks, months and years. And so…pre-history calendars began to appear. The Hebrew, Chinese, Mayan, Armenian, Egyptian, Hindu, Moslem, Roman, Aztec and, who knows, perhaps even a Brazilian calendar, back when our native Indian population, the Tupi-Guanany nation, measured the passing of time by counting the phases of the moon. It was always such an absurd mixture of criteria, calculated in such a way, that an airplane which left London on the 5 of January, 1939 and arrived in Belgrade, in Yugoslavia on the same day but on a date designated as of December 23, 1933. If an airplane flies very quickly and arrives in Japan in only 5 hours, it would end up arriving yesterday! It’s so crazy that no one can understand it. For example, Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 22 and April 25, and Christmas always falls on the same day, December 25. Take note that Holy Friday is always on a Friday but never on the same day of the month.

Mathematicians, in doing their calculations, see that there are no three trimesters of exactly the same number of days. They always have 90, 91, 92 or 93 days. This is because 30 days have September, April, June and November. February has 28, and all the rest have 31. In this poetic manner, it’s very confusing to calculate mediums and make statistics. The Orthodox Jews, even until today, use the lunar calendar and synchronize their seasons, injecting an extra month every two or three years in passing. The first Romans lived under a year of only ten months, or, if you please, 304 days. This continued until Numa Pompilio, in the seventh century B.C., added the months of January and February. But, all this made dates so uncertain that the high priests resorted to habitually cutting them down time-wise when their adversaries were in power and would then stretch them out to please their favorites… The Egyptians, on studying the shadows cast by the pyramids, created the year of 365 days and eight hours, having twelve months of thirty days each and five extra days reserved for celebrations, and besides all this, they even had a leap-year every five years. On the other hand, the Aztecs had a year consisting of eighteen months and twenty days, and the remaining days reserved for festive days or for bad days which they referred to as “nefastos”.

In an attempt to uniform time, the system was then adapted to the Roman world, when Julio Cesar decreed that the year 46 B.C. be stretched to 445 days, so that it would be synchronized to the sun. Due to the numerous superstitions regarding odd numbered days, the five extra days saved for celebrations were promptly distributed among the months. One day was subtracted from “Februarius” and given to “Quintilis”, which later was renamed “Julius”, in honor of himself, creator of this calendar. Cutting the year down further yet, a second amputation was perpetrated against “Februarius”, for Augusto, who summed this day to his birth month, August. It was only in the year 325 A.C. that the council of Nicea established the week consisting of seven days, independent of the number of months and years, strong enough to walk on its own legs, if a week could have legs, of course. It was in 1852 that Pope Gregorio corrected Cesar’s astronomy, ordering that three leap-year days be stricken from the calendar every four centuries. And here is a novelty, if a world year calendar was developed, each one would be doted with thirteen months, each week starting on Sunday and ending every Saturday. The 365th day would be extra and be called the last day of the year. That would then be a great disadvantage for us Brazilians: Christmas and New Years would always fall on the week-end. We would lose our much cherished extended holidays.

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