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Happy Leap Year 2020! Calendar Trivia

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A new decade has started. Anno Domini 2020 has arrived. It is a leap year. Have a look at a few interesting facts about our calendar which you might have no idea about.

We have just entered into the 2020s, pronounced “twenty-twenties” or “two thousand (and) twenties”, shortened to “the ’20s”. 2020 (MMXX) will be a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar, the 2020th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 20th year of the 3rd millennium, the 20th year of the 21st century, and the 1st year of the the upcoming decade.  The year 2020 has 366 days. This is a leap year.

The letters CE for Common Era or BCE for Before Common Era in conjunction with a year mean after or before year 1. The Common Era begins with year 1 in the Gregorian calendar. Instead of AD, short for Anno Domini, and BC, an abbreviation of Before Christ, CE and BCE are used in exactly the same way as the traditional abbreviations AD and BC. Because AD and BC hold religious (Christian) connotations, many prefer to use the more modern and neutral CE and BCE to indicate if a year is before or after year 1. According to the international standard for calendar dates, ISO 8601, both systems are acceptable.

The Anno Domini year–numbering system was introduced by a Christian monk named Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century. The year count starts with year 1 in the Gregorian calendar. This is supposed to be the birth year of Jesus, although modern historians often conclude that he was born around 4 years earlier.

The expression Common Era is not a new invention, either. It has been in use for several hundred years. In English, it is found in writings as early as 1708. In Latin, the term “vulgaris aerae” (English, Vulgar Era) was used interchangeably with “Christian Era” as far back as in the 1600s.

What is relatively new is that more and more countries and their educational institutions have officially replaced the traditional abbreviations AD/BC with CE/BCE.

England and Wales introduced the CE/BCE system into the official school curriculum in 2002, and Australia followed in 2011. More and more textbooks in the United States also use CE/BCE, as well as history tests issued by the US College Board.

A year listed without any letters is always Common Era, starting from year 1. Adding CE or BCE after a year is only necessary if there is room for misunderstanding, e.g. in texts where years both before and after year 1 are mentioned. For instance, Pompeii, Italy was founded around 600–700 BCE and was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE.

Why is 2020 a leap year?

tropical year illustration - Happy Leap Year 2020! Calendar Trivia

A leap year is a year in which an extra day is added to the Gregorian calendar, which is used by most of the world. While an ordinary year has 365 days, a leap year has 366 days. A leap year comes once every four years. Because of this, a leap year can always be evenly divided by four.

Leap years are needed to keep our modern day Gregorian calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242189 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds to be exact– to circle once around the Sun. However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year, so if we didn’t add a leap day on February 29 nearly every four years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by around 24 days!

feb29 leap 678x425 - Happy Leap Year 2020! Calendar Trivia

If you are not a Math freak, here is a thorough explanation how it works. We add a Leap Day on February 29, almost every four years. The leap day is an extra, or intercalary (inserted in the calendar to harmonize it with the solar year ), day and we add it to the shortest month of the year, February.

In the Gregorian calendar three criteria must be taken into account to identify leap years:

  • The year can be evenly divided by 4;
  • If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless;
  • The year is also evenly divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year.

This means that in the Gregorian calendar, the years 2000 and 2400 are leap years, while 1800,1900,2100,2200, 2300 and 2500 are NOT leap years.

Who Invented Leap Years?

Roman general Julius Caesar introduced the first leap years over 2000 years ago. But the Julian Calendar had only one rule: any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year. This formula produced way too many leap years, but was not corrected until the introduction of the Gregorian calendar more than 1500 years later.

Have you heard of Leap Months?

The ancient Roman Calendar added an extra month every few years to maintain the correct seasonal changes, similar to the Chinese leap month. While our modern Gregorian Calendar adds only one leap day on February 29th nearly every four years, the Chinese add a whole leap month approximately every three years. To avoid confusion it is good to be familiar with which calendar a particular country or region of the world uses.

12 Irregular Months

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The Gregorian Calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world today. It is a solar calendar based on a 365-day common year divided into 1 month of irregular lengths. 11 of the months have either 30 or 31 days, while the second month, February, has only 28 days during the common year. Now you know, however, that nearly every four years  one extra day, is added on 29th February, making the leap year in the Gregorian calendar 366 days long.

Where do the names of the months come from?

Only a few names of the month were actually derived from Roman deities; most of them came from the numbers of the months or — in two cases — in honor of Roman emperors.

January was named after the Roman god of beginnings and endings Janus. Latin Januarius (mensis).

February derives from the old-Italian god Februus or else from februa, signifying the festivals of purification celebrated in Rome during this month. Latin Februaris (mensis).

March is the first month of the Roman year. It is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. Latin Martius (mensis).

April was called Aprilis, from aperire, “to open.” Possibly because it is the month in which the buds begin to open.

May is the third month of the Roman calendar. The name probably comes from Maiesta, the Roman goddess of honor and reverence. Latin Maius (mensis).

June is the fourth month and was named in honor of Juno. However, the name might also come from iuniores (young men; juniors) as opposed to maiores (grown men; majors) for May, the two months being dedicated to young and old men. Latin Junius (mensis).

July was the month in which Julius Caesar was born, and named Julius in his honor in 44 BCE, the year of his assassination. Also called Quintilis (fifth month). Latin Julius (mensis).

August was originally called Sextilis (from sextus, “six”), but the name was later changed in honor of the first of the Roman emperors, Augustus (because several fortunate events of his life occurred during this month).

Septembe comes from septem, “seven.”

October comes from octo, “eight.”

November comes from novem, “nine.”December comes from decem, “ten.”

52 Weeks & 1 Day

A common year roughly adds up to 52 weeks of 7 days each plus 1 day – or 2 days, if it’s a leap year.  However, countries vary on exactly how they present and number of week in their calendars.

7 days in a week

The days of the year in the Gregorian calendar are divided into 7-day weeks, and the weeks are numbered1 to 52 or 53. The international standard is to start the week on Monday. It is the international standard week (ISO 8601) used by the majority of the world.However, several countries, including the US and Canada, count Sundayas the first day of the week.

Named After Gods and Planets

The names of the 7 days of the week in most Latin-based languages come from the Roman calendar, which related each day with 7 celestial bodies considered to be gods: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

The English language has retained the planet names for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. However, the names for the other days of the week have been replaced by their equivalent Norse or Germanic gods:

Sunday for Sol, goddess of the sun, Sun’s day

Monday for Mani, goddess of the moon, Mani’s day

Tuesday for Tyr, god of war, Tyr’s day

Wednesday For Odin, the Raven God, sometimes known as Woden, Woden’s day

Thursday for Thor, god of strength and storms, Thor’s day

Friday for Frigg, goddess of marriage, Frigg’s day.

Some Asian languages such as Hindi, Japanese, and Korean have a similar relationship between the weekdays and the planets.

The 7-day-week provides a clear method of representing dates and times to avoid misinterpretation between people from different countries with varying traditions for writing numeric dates and times.

Why 7 days?

There are many different opinions as to how the 7-day week originated. The most common explanation points to Babylonian astrologers who assigned planet gods to the days of the week around 700 BCE. The Romans later replaced these names with their planet gods in the ancient Roman Calendar and Germanic and Norse people later did the same with some of their gods.

When is the Weekend?

As the first day of the week varies in different cultures, so does the weekend. The Christian or Western world marks Sunday as their day of rest and worship, while Muslims refer to Friday as their day of rest and prayer. The Jewish calendar counts Saturday – the Sabbath – as the day of rest and worship. Both Saturdays and Sundays are common days of rest in the calendar. Calendars in some countries use a separate color for the weekends and reserve the black or gray fonts for the weekdays, Monday through Friday.


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