Wait, You Celebrate New Year in February? – Calendars and New Year around the World

By: Cheryl

By: Cheryl Lu, Social Media Coordinator

As New Year’s Day gets closer, 2022 is waving its goodbye. The notion that one brand new chapter of our lives is about to be written urges us into multiple rational and irrational resolutions: learning to bake, mastering a new language, getting married, getting promoted, getting a pet, waking up earlier, getting drunk… We are weaving and cramming our prospects of living a better life into these last few days of what’s left of 2022.

Well, maybe not every one of us. To some (or many), Jan. 1, 2023 is just another ordinary day that happens to fall at the beginning of the Gregorian Calendar. In their minds, the real New Year is still in the future and is determined by another calendar.

The world’s calendars generally fall into four types: solar, lunar, lunisolar and seasonal. A solar calendar is determined by the earth’s position with the sun. A solar year has roughly 365 and one-quarter days – the time that Earth takes to make a complete orbit. Lunar calendars are based on moon phases and cycles. A full moon cycle takes about 29 and one-half days, and lunar months usually alternate between 29 and 30 days. Lunisolar calendars combine the features of the first two and are based on the observation of both moon phases and the sun’s position in the sky. While the first three deal with astronomy, seasonal calendars rely on climate and changes in the environment, such as the “wet season” and “dry season.” Here are some examples: 

The Gregorian Calendar

The Gregorian Calendar that we are familiar with is the most widely used calendar in today’s world. Introduced in 1852 by Pope Gregory XIII, it’s a solar calendar created to replace the previously used Julian Calendar. It improved the calendar by modifying the rule of leap years to make the average calendar year more accurate compared to the earth’s revolution around the sun (if the year is divisible by 100 but not 400, it will NOT become a leap year). In the Gregorian Calendar, there are seven days in a week, which, in the Christian view, is the time God took to create the world.

Fun fact:

In Gregorian Calendar, October 1582 has only 21 days. Day 5 to day 14 are entirely omitted purpose of correcting the error caused by the previous Julian Calendar.

The Julian Calendar

Also, a solar calendar, the Julian Calendar, was created  by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. It standardized 21 March as the Spring Equinox and set one leap year every four years. As time passed by, the lack of its precision resulted in a 10-day deviation in the calendar from the solar year, and Julian Calendar was thus replaced by Gregorian Calendar by most western European countries by the 1700s. In today’s world, Julian Calendar is used mainly by churches for setting the dates of rituals and events, such as Easter.

The Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar

Mayan long count calendar


If you have heard about the film 2012, you are already familiar with the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar. According to this calendar, the end date of its 5,126-year-long cycle was to fall on Dec. 21, 2012, which derived from eschatological beliefs that on that day, catastrophic events would take place and the world would come to an end. The movie, taking the name of the year, borrowed this theory.

The Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar was used by several pre-Columbian cultures, notably the Maya. It counted the number of days starting from August 11, 3114 B.C. in the Gregorian Calendar, when the god in Mayan mythology created the world. Monuments in the Mayan culture widely feature this calendar. 

The Chinese Lunisolar Calendar

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CleppoJOEv8[/embedyt]

(Winter Olympics countdown using solar terms)

In Chinese history, there have been multiple solar and lunisolar calendars. The current Chinese Lunisolar Calendar, used across the East Asian cultural sphere, was said to be created in the Zhou dynasty (1050-771 B.C.) and modified over time into its current state.

The Chinese Lunisolar Calendar sets the beginning of every month on the day of the new moon. Each month contains 29 or 30 days (divided by 10 and grouped into three weeks), and each year contains 12 months. Leap years happen every two or three years and are set by adding a leap month (13th month) in the calendar year to make sure the full moon always falls on the 15th or 16th day of each month. Each day is divided into 12 hours, and each hour is divided into eight parts, each happens to be 15 minutes in the western clocking system. Each year contains 24 solar terms (see Winter Olympics countdown using solar terms) to instruct seasonal and agricultural activities such as sowing, seeding and harvest; and every 60 years, named by pairing the 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches in order, is a complete calendar cycle. The corresponding zodiac animals are also determined by order of the Earthly Branches.

The New Year’s Day in the Chinese Lunisolar Calendar usually falls in January or February in the Gregorian Calendar. When referring to a particular year, one either refer to the year’s Stem-Branches pair (e.g. 癸卯年 guǐ-maǒ), to the zodiac animal (e.g. Year of the Rabbit), or use the era name system by naming the number of the year after the reign title/era name proclaimed by the reigning monarch (e.g. Kangxi 61). Since the 20th century, the era name system has been abolished by most countries in the East Asian cultural sphere except Japan.

The Islamic Calendar

islamic calendar


The Islamic Calendar is a lunar calendar that is based purely on moon phases regardless of the sun’s position in relation to the earth. Therefore, the 12 months in the Islamic Calendar shift across the civil year and regress every 33 years. The Islamic New Year, which takes place at the first sunset of the first Islamic month, usually falls in July or August in the Gregorian Calendar.

Each Islamic month begins upon the observation of a crescent moon. Each month is 29 or 30 days. Ramadan is the 9th month.

Indian National Calendar

Indian national calendar


The Indian National Calendar is based on the Saka Calendar, which originates from the Hindu culture. It’s a solar calendar issued by the Indian government and is used alongside with Gregorian Calendar.

The months in the Indian National Calendar follow the signs of the tropical zodiac (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.), making 12 months in total every year. There are seven days in a week, and each is represented by the sun, moon, or  planets. Every week starts with Ravivara, the western equivalent of Sunday. The calendar starts from year 0 of the Saka era, which is year 78 in the Gregorian Calendar; and follows the Gregorian Calendar’s rule of leap year.

New Year’s Day is celebrated on different dates in different cultures across the subcontinent. Some consider the month of Vaisākha (Taurus month) to be the first month of the year, some celebrate New Year in Chaitra (Aries month). One of the most commonly celebrated New Year’s Day falls in Kārtika (Scorpio month) right after Diwali.

The French Republican Calendar

french republican calendar


 After the French Revolution and before the coronation of Napoleon I, there was a French Republican Calendar created in France to mark the “era of liberty.” In this calendar, years are written in Roman numerals, and the day that the French First Republic was proclaimed was marked as its beginning. New Year’s Day falls on the midnight of each autumn equinox.

There are 12 months each year in the French Republican Calendar. Each month is divided into three 10-day weeks. The months are given names related to nature, such as Frimaire (from French frimas, “frost”), Messidor (from Latin messis, “harvest” and Fructidor (from Latin fructus, “fruit.”

The Hebrew Calendar

hebrew calendar


The Hebrew Calendar, or the Jewish Calendar, is a lunisolar calendar created with Babylonian influence and used as an official calendar in Israel.

In the Hebrew Calendar, there are 12 months every year. Months with even numbers usually have 29 days, while the rest have 30 days. A leap year happens every two to three years by adding a 13th month at the end of the year. The beginning of the year count started in 3761 B.C., the time that Jewish philosopher Maimonides established as the biblical Date of Creation. Each day starts from sunset or upon the observation of three stars. Days are divided by either 24 equal hours, or 12 hours in the day and 12 in the night; some are longer than others, as the length of daytime shifts from summer to winter. Months begin on the night of the new moon.

There are several days in the Hebrew Calendar that can be considered New Year’s Day, depending on their purposes. The beginning of calendar years, fiscal years and academic years all fall on different dates. Currently, the date that’s most commonly recognized as New Year’s Day is 1 Tishrei, which is the beginning of the seventh month in the Hebrew Calendar, and September or October in the Gregorian Calendar.

As the Gregorian New Year is fast approaching, MCIS wishes everyone a happy and prosperous New Year. Looking back in the length of human history, each civilization around the world has independently established its own theories of astronomy and corresponding glossaries and mythologies. Upon these theories, human civilization flourished with the art of calculation, agriculture and religions; and calendars, combining all three, was an utmost crystallization of our ancestors’ wisdom. There were countless calendars used throughout history, and many of which are still in use today; each, dating back to ancient times, echoes the sound of humans’ first questioning of the universe.