HM, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT

WHY IS OCTOBER THE TENTH MONTH WHEN “OCTO” ACTUALLY MEANS EIGHT?

Let’s make time even more complicated. Like when different types of calendars come into play.

The most popular calendar system is the Gregorian, which is probably the one primarily used around the world. The modern Gregorian calendar — named after Pope Gregory XIII — was adapted from the old Roman calendar which originally had ten months; it began in March and ended in December, which is why October is named so (because it used to be the eighth month).

But there are a lot of other calendar systems out there. The Chinese calendar system, which is known as Nónglì, is a very well-known calendar system, for example. Probably because of the story with the animals1

As I write this, the year (as per the Gregorian calendar) is 2022. But in Ethiopia, they follow a calendar system that is actually seven or eight years behind the Gregorian one. According to the Ethiopian Ge’ez calendar, the year is currently 2015.

The Hijri calendar is also an interesting one. You might know this as the Islamic calendar that Muslims follow for religious holidays and observances — like the annual fasting period of Ramadan. The Hijri calendar follows the Moon, with the phases of the moon determining when the months will change. Basically, when it’s a new Moon, a new month starts. A full moon marks the middle of a month.

The Islamic calendar also has twelve months each consisting of 29 or 30 days (depending on when the Moon changes). Maybe the most popular Islamic calendar month is Ramadan, during which Muslims are required to fast between sunrise and sunset.

Now, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Hijri calendar, when you compare it to the Gregorian calendar, it always changes every year depending on when it’s coming. Because the two calendars are based on different things — the Hijri calendar is lunar (based on the Moon) whereas the Gregorian is solar (based on the Sun). So, long story short, Ramadan — or any of the months from the Islamic calendar — fall out of sync with the Gregorian calendar slowly, year by year. In fact, the Hijri calendar shifts around 10-12 days backwards every year when compared to the Gregorian.

Maybe you’re lost in all this. Or maybe you’re fascinated and you need an example. If you’re in that latter group, here we go: In 2022, Ramadan was right at the beginning of April, on around the 2nd. This means that next year, in 2023, the first day of Ramadan will be 10-12 days behind, so roughly somewhere towards the end of March. And then in 2024, further back to begin maybe in the second week of March. And further and further and around and around it will go.

This basically means that month of Ramadan, depending on where we are in that shifting cycle, can fall in any season or month of the year. And depending on where you are in the world with what kind of climate and daylight hours, the fasting experience can change significantly. Now here in Jakarta, it doesn’t make much difference because whether it’s December or June, the days are more or less the same length (because it’s so close to the Equator, remember?). But if you take a place like London, where in the summer we get around sixteen hours of sunlight and in the winter only around eight or nine, Ramadan is definitely a lot easier in the winter time, when we only have to hold our thirst and hunger until about four in the afternoon.

1 We already talked about this in Kanis Majoris No. 1. Anyone remember that?

2 A new moon is the “invisible phase” of the Moon when it can’t be seen by the naked eye. It’s when one phase cycle is finishing and the next one is starting. You’ve seen those charts of the Moon starting full and then getting thinner and thinner as the month goes by, right? And then right at the end, the Moon gets so thin that it can’t be visible before it starts slowly growing again? Yeah, that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. The reason why the Moon can’t be seen during the new moon phase is because the Moon, the Earth and the Sun are all in a line. Or in syzygy, if you want to get fancy.

3 I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the Indonesian government has decided to change the capital of the nation to a new city, a city that hasn’t been built yet, that will be known as Nusantara.

4 This is just my opinion. Some people might think that daylight savings is a good idea, even today. Like in the United States, where they have four main time zones (Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern) in the continental part of the country (so not including Alaska and Hawaii — they have their own time zones), they have daylight savings in every state so they times go back and forth by one hour depending on the time of year. Every state except two, that is. Hawaii and Arizona (although Arizona is a bit mixed — some parts of the state follow daylight savings while others don’t). Wow, I think I need to go lie down after all that.

NO. 5
HM, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT

CLOSE YOUR EYES AND COUNT BACKWARDS FROM SIX HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR. I’LL BE RIGHT BACK.

This next section is very numbers-based, so if you’re allergic to maths and stuff then consider this your warning.