Calendars and Religion
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||lunisolar, incense, anno, correspond, formation, reliable, lunar, equinox, temples, negative, rocks, month-long, strict, longitude, holy, commemorate
||Sun Stone, Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, Pope Gregory XIII, United States, Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Other Muslim, Chinese New Year, New Year
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Calendars and Religion
By Colleen Messina
1 A line in a song asks, "Does anybody really know what time it is?" This question could easily apply to calendars! Did you know that our ideas about time are affected by religion? Different faiths use different types of calendars to measure time.
2 Odd structures, such as Stonehenge in England, may have been used to measure time long ago. These ancient rocks stand in a circle like large, gray Legos. Some people think that the rocks relate to the position of the sun. No one knows how people moved them into this formation, but it was probably a lot of work. If it was a calendar, it sure was a big one! The Aztecs also had a rock calendar that was related to the sun. They had a Sun Stone that showed their sun god in the center.
3 The calendar you are probably most familiar with is also based on the sun. The powerful Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, first adopted the solar calendar in 46 B.C. The cycle of the year in a solar calendar is measured from one equinox to the next. A solar calendar has to be adjusted every so often to keep in time with the sun. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII first authorized taking a few days out of every year for the purpose of adjusting the calendar. People didn't like this one bit because they thought they were losing time! It took centuries for Europeans to get used to this concept.
4 Eventually, a system was worked out to add a single day to the calendar every four years so it was synchronized with the seasons. The extra day made every fourth year 366 days long. These special years are called leap years, and we add the extra day to the month of February. If you know someone whose birthday is on February 29, you know that he or she was born in a leap year. This calendar is called the Gregorian calendar, and it is used in the United States and other Christian countries.
5 Muslims use a different kind of calendar. Their lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and it is completely different than a solar one. According to the Muslim holy book, the Koran, Allah said, "Truly, twelve months is the number of the months with God, according to God's Book, ever since He created heaven and Earth." A new Muslim month does not start until two reliable witnesses have seen the new moon. Muslim families often take walks in the evening to find the first yellow slice of the new moon to start Ramadan, their month-long fast.
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