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The fact that our planet rotates on its axis a little less than the 24 hours, we know as a day (by 3 minutes and 56 seconds), and that it travels around the sun once every 365.25636 days, created confusion over the centuries about exact dates, and induced calendars to make compromises.

The Romans may have been accurate in building aqueducts and coliseums, but they erred when it came to the calendar. They started with ten months, then added two more months, while fiddling with the numbers of days in February which at one time had 30 days.

Just for the record, in 46 BC Julius Caesar reformed the previously erratic Roman calendar. He took the length of the year to be 365.25 days, beginning on 1 January. As a result of a tremendous mistake by Roman priests, the calendar had to be reformed again in 10 BC. Even so, by 1582 the Spring Equinox had slipped back from 21 March to 11 March. To prevent further slippage, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar and as part of the reforms, ten days of 1582 were removed with 5 October becoming 15 October.

But since the Gregorian calendar, as it was called, necessitated the elimination of a number of days from the calendar then in use throughout much of the Western World, a number of countries balked. The ones that immediately went along with the plan were the Catholic countries in Europe, but the Protestant countries refused.

Slowly but surely, however, over the years even countries not controlled by Catholics agreed to use the Gregorian calendar since the incorrectly calculated Julian calendar was now throwing the year clearly out of the track with the earth's rotation. One of the nations that delayed converting to the new calendar was England and its colonies, which put it into practice in 1752 and Russia and Finland not until 1918.

The changeover in America, as in England, led to a loss of eleven days in February 1752. This affected among others, George Washington, who as a twenty year old in 1752 saw his birthday moved from 11 February to 22 February. This seems quasi as fiction than a fact. Of course the celebration of George Washington's birthday has now been shifted to the third Monday in February - which has nothing to do with the Julian or Gregorian calendar, but with more important one for most people in America: the federal holiday calendar.

As European power spread around the world, every country eventually settled on the Gregorian calendar as the way of marking the change of year. Surely, other ways of measuring time are in force. We Jews shall have our New Year in 2000 on 30th September and the year will be 5761, and according to Islam what we call year 2000 will be 1420, while the Chinese New Year in 2000 will be 4th February and the year will be 4698.

From the 7th century to the year 1338, the English considered Christmas Day to be the first day of the year, and then it was moved to 25 March for civil purposes and to Easter for religious ones.

Gregory XIII was a Catholic Pope, and of course his calendar is supposed to have begun with the birth of Christ. But most students of the subject say the latest Christ could have been born was 4 BC. Thus, perhaps the Millennium should have celebrated in 1996. According to the "New Catholic Encyclopaedia", Dionysius, who has been termed one of the most learned men of the sixth century, made a serious error which, at that time, went unnoticed and which, since then, has gone uncorrected.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia says that Dionysius "wrongly dated (the birth of Jesus) to 754 A.U.C. some 4 years, at least, too late. Thus what Dionysius said was CE1, should have been four or more years earlier. A.U.C. is the abbreviation for the Latin anno urbis conditae, which means "the year of the establishment of the City-Rome."

Leaving aside whether Jesus was a real character in history is certainly far from clear to most academics when he was born, not to mention how he was conceived.

In any case, the Millennium has entered the door of history on 1st January 2000 but not without a controversy from certain institutions such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the US Navel Observatory and the Greenwich Observatory, as they claim that right date had to be 1 January 2001, though the Vatican preferred to announce it in a three-cipher-year.

A book entitled "Zero - the Biography of a Dangerous Idea" by Charles Seife (Viking) discussing the history within the larger context of alternative numbering systems developed by various cultures, such as the base - 60 system of the Babylonians who brought us the 60 minute hour and the magnificent zero invented by the Maya, came down to a statement that the absence of nought gave us our "silly" calendar system that goes from 1 BC to 1AD, guaranteeing that the new Millennium actually begins next year.

My personal view is that clinging on to the errors of history in such cases, is not worth a dispute especially after the Millennium has already been fixed and that the decision should be taken as a common sense choice.


Edward Yamen

Scribe: The seven day week has remained unchanged for thousands of years. Jewish leaders have successfully reinstated any attempt to tamper with that system, such as not to count one day a year in order to have a year of 52 weeks, so that every month will start on a Sunday and so on. Jews have strongly objected to any change in order to keep the Sabbath in a fixed position.



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