Thursday, November 12, 2015

Celtic Calendar

Apparently, according to Celtic/Gaelic calendar, it's already winter, since November (Samhain) is the first winter month. It does make sense from the point of view of the days getting extremely short and the general darkness of the season. For about a week already it's been getting dark at around 4 p.m. over here, and even earlier, though today the sun came out and the temperatures are more suitable for spring than for winter.

Samhain was also the name of the precursor of the modern Halloween and it was an important pagan festival, marking the end of the harvest season, as you probably know. It's interesting that in The Hobbit Tolkien mentions something about the old dwarves' calendar where the New Year began in November, so you can see where he got it from.

In ancient Rome, on the other hand, the year originally began in March (September = the seventh month, October = the eighth month, November = the ninth month with December being the last, tenth month and the winter days originally not belonging to any month at all). In the times of Julius Caesar it did already begin in January. Caesar further reformed the calendar, by, among other things, adding ten additional days and thus making the official year 365 days long.

He also apparently changed the length of the week, as in the times of the Republic Romans still were using the original Etruscan system of the 8-day week with one designated market day.

It's interesting that in different countries the year began on a different day. 1 November by the Celts, 1 September in Byzantine Empire, 25 December in Anglo-Saxon England and yet since Julian Calendar became the official calendar of the Roman Catholic Church all the other calendars became eventually aligned with it, (and later with Gregorian calendar) so that the first of January officially became the New Year's Day.

The Ancient Roman civilisation is long gone, but its legacy still survives. Definitely something to think about.


  1. What a confusing history the calendar has! I read about how Rome dealt with the leap issue... they took a whole month out at one point. I feel sorry for the people who lived through the times when the government decided to change the calendar they were using. It is hard enough to adjust to the daylight savings times imposed upon us!

  2. I've read they were still using the old calendar alongside the official one for quite some time. I can't imagine the week being 8 days though:)

  3. Housewife from FinlandNovember 13, 2015 at 4:20 AM

    Lillibeth, since back then most people could not read or write, I think that majority of people just noticed that market day has changed and that's it. I mean they had no expectations for feasts. Priests told to folks that "now it is two weeks to Whateverfeastitwas" and people were happy with that. They did not follow calendar on their own.

    So it hardly caused any significant trouble to ordinary people.

    I have actually amused myself thinking why we need to have 7 days week (other than biblical reasons.) We could just count month's days, 1,2,3,....29,30,31. Or We could just count days of the year, months are not really needed. I mean all this is just agreement, there is nothing natural in weeks or months -they do not even follow the moon. Now I assume that time had to be cut to smaller peaces so that people who couldn't read, write or count had some track of it -they propably new it was "second Friday of November". But nowadays we could just be living day 317/2015.

    1. I just wanted to respond to an earlier comment you made on this blog. I just changed my settings so anyone can comment on my blog. I believe there is a drop down menu there now and you can select a profile or anonymous. I'm sorry I didn't see your comment earlier.

      This calendar post is very interesting to say the least. I, myself, am of Pictish heritage and love learning about all kinds of ancient cultures and things.

  4. We need a week because most people need to have at least one day of rest out of 7. I read that in the times of the French revolution when they were trying to stamp out Christianity, they changed the traditional 7 day week to a 10 day one, with the result that even horses refused to work that hard. Months have meaning, too, since they make calculating time easier. Anyway, it´s our European tradition and I see no reason to do away with it.

  5. Peace, Pictish heritage? Sounds very interesting!