CHANGING CALENDARS, CHANGING WEEKENDS, CHANGING CENTENNIALS
By Kevin Stoda
Outside of European tradition, multiple calendars have been in vogue and practice through-out the millennia.
This thought comes to mind as Taiwan is planning and carrying out many 100-year celebrations due to its “Republic of China Calendar”. According to Taiwanese lore, “The ROC was founded by the Kuomintang (KMT) on Jan 1, 1912, after party founder Sun Yat-sen orchestrated a series of revolts that overthrew the Qing dynasty in the winter of 1911. It has become synonymous with Taiwan since the KMT’s exodus to the island after losing a civil war on the Chinese mainland to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).”
Since I moved to Taiwan late last August, I have observed that the country runs on three calendars simultaneously. There is the aforementioned “Republic of China Calendar”. (By the way, this is the more controversial calendar in Taiwan and East Asia.) It is called the Minguo calendar.
Officially, it should be said that “[t]he Republic of China uses two official calendars: the Gregorian calendar, and the Minguo calendar. The latter numbers years starting from 1911, the year of the founding of the Republic of China.
That is, on the one hand, the politicians and cultural leaders of Taiwan are busy gearing up for this big centennial. Mean“[w]hile [other] scholars and politicians are deadlocked in a debate on whether the centenary is politically correct,… [Nevertheless,] there is no doubt that even though the past 400 years were dominated by a succession of colonial administrations, changes in the recent 100 years have been the most substantial and dramatic for Taiwan and its people.”
The third calendar, which remains unofficial in Taiwan, but is followed openly by many peoples of Chinese descent in East Asia, is the so-called Chinese Calendar. This is a semi-Lunar Calendar.
“Although the Chinese calendar traditionally does not use continuously numbered years, outside China its years are often numbered from the reign of the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi. But at least three different years numbered 1 are now used by various scholars, making the year 2010 “Chinese Year” 4708, 4707, or 4647.”
For the last 4 or more centuries, the 12th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar has been set to end around the first week (or so) of February , i.e. according to the Western or Gregorian Calendars. “Chinese New Year [celebration] is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most.” In Taiwan the festivities usually last about 7 days. Some other locations celebrate the Chinese New Year several days longer.”
MULTIPLE CALENDARS—LIKE BIORYTHMS TO LIVE ON BY
Of course, many other religions and cultures celebrate continue to have separate calendars, too. For example, the Islamic lunar calendar is now over 1430 years old.
Even older is the Buddhist calendar. “The Buddhist calendar is used on mainland Southeast Asia in the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma (officially known as Myanmar) and Sri Lanka in several related forms. It is a lunisolar calendar having months that are alternately 29 and 30 days, with an intercalated day and a 30-day month added at regular intervals. All forms of the Buddhist calendar are based on the original version of the Surya Siddhanta.”
In South and Southeast Asia, there are also the Hindi, Sakar, and Javanese calendars in rotation. “The Hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar.”
“The Javanese calendar is used almost exclusively by the people of Java [largest island of Indonesia] including the main ethnicities of Java island: Javanese, Madurese and Sundanese- primarily as a cultural icon, a cultural identifier and as an object and tradition of antiquity to be kept alive. The Javanese calendar is used for cultural and metaphysical purposes of these Javanese peoples.”
We shouldn’t ignore the fact that prior to European colonialization, multiple lunar and semi-lunar calendars were used by the native peoples in the Northern and Southern Americas.
Recently, by the way, the Mayan calendars have been making a comeback. Solstice watchers and astrologists are looking at multiple Mayan calendars to gain a fuller view of our world in the 21st Century.
Naturally, the Hebrew calendar is also among one of the oldest ones [if not the oldest] still in usage world wide.
MOVING ON TO CHANGING WEEKEND DATES
Many westerners, too, are not really aware that over recent decades, around the globe different countries have been changing their work-weeks and work calendars as part of a process of globalization. That was, for example, what occurred as I was living in Kuwait 4 years ago. At that time, the country reestablished its weekend from Thursdays and Fridays. An created a new weekend starting on Fridays and ending Saturday night.
This change was undertaken so that 4 work-week-days in Kuwait coincided with the Western 5-day work week. This meant, following the change of the weekend in Kuwait, that approximately 80% of the time the stock and oil markets around the world would coincide during the same week (instead of only 60% of the time) as had occurred in the decades prior to this.
Because of religious reasons, the country of Kuwait was not willing to give up taking Fridays off. Interestingly, the state of Israel also runs on that same 7 day cycle—with many Jews closing their shops–and professionals taking off–on Fridays and Saturdays, too.
It is important to note that in most of the less developed corners of the globe, , unlike in the West—which became clearly adhered to the Gregorian calendar and the 5-day work week quicker than many of the more traditional parts of the planet, many Asians and Africans peoples had never really had developed an affinity for or a tradition of “taking more than a half-day or single day off every 7 to 10 days”.
This imbalance in relationship to work had alarmed the Western countries as Asian states began to catch up with the West developmentally two decades ago. It is one reason that the United States foreign officials complained to the Japanese ministries in the early 1980s. They specifically asked the Japanese nation and its people to take more days off each week —and go on more holidays.
NOTE: When I was working in Japan in the early 1990s, the school system included a 5 1/2 or 6 day-school week and until that time many Japanese had had a 6-day workweek. The government of Japan acquiesced to the outside pressure (known as gaiatsu) to “internationalize” its economy. IThe government pushed to have more workers take more time off–and for more students to stay home on Saturdays playing—rather than studying. Similarly, in the mid-1990s, Western hegemonic globalizing pressures soon persuaded the 4 Little Tigers of the Asian economy (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong) later.
Meanwhile, in other less-developed Asian states, the trend seems to continue to be one of tradition–whereby the worker works as many days as possible each week—i.e. without much regard to taking any particular day off each week. This is likely to due more to poverty than due to culture. However, since the farmer-like mentality of living in and near ones work and shop is very common in less developed parts of the globe, society and culture do have influence on the norms of society—and those norms are related to which days in a week or month one works and when one tries to rest.