As today is the first day of the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the calendar I use within my fantasy world.
What I’ve Done Before
Being a fantasy world, there is no reason that the calendar used should, in any way, resemble the calendar we use in the real world. Therefore, in the past, I have created various calendars that contained: different number of months, different names for months, different numbers of days per month, multiple moons with complex methods of mapping the various lunar alignments to the calendar, as well as other changes.
In practice, these changes were either too complicated to remember during the game, meaningless because we didn’t actually keep track of the passage of time (other than the number of days it took to do something), or confusing because it was all too foreign to relate to.
What I discovered is that if the calendar is to have any meaning at all it must be reasonably familiar.
My New System
Let’s start with the 12 months (with the same names) that everyone is familiar with. However, it has always bugged me that the months don’t all have the same number of days. Also, I frequently read, or hear people say, that there are four weeks in a month. That isn’t quite true. There may be four weeks in a month but there are also a couple of extra days. Plus, every four years February has an extra day. Naturally, I wanted to get rid of all that so I sped up the moon slightly in order to give it an apparent orbit of exactly 28 days and, matching the calendar to the moon, created 28-day months that each contain exactly four weeks.
The problem is that 12 months, each containing 28 days, have a total of 336 days. Everyone knows that a year contains 365 days (more or less). It’s easy enough to hand wave the difference away but a year with only 336 days bothers me for some reason. Coincidentally, 13 months (of 28 days each) comes to 364 days, just one day short of what we are used to.
New Year’s Day
I really do want to stick with 365 days in a year so I decided to add an extra day, New Year’s day, that exists outside of any month. In keeping with tradition, the year will start and end in mid-winter. New Year’s day will then fall between the end of the old year (December 28th) and the beginning of the new year (January 1st). This is a holiday in all of the kingdoms, and celebrates the beginning of the new year.
For some reason, having an extra month and an extra day bothers me less than changing the number of days in a year.
The Extra Month
Where do you put the extra month and what do you call it? I couldn’t tell you why, but I immediately knew that this new month belonged between June and July. But I didn’t have a clue what to call it. Therefore, I looked back at the development of today’s calendar in hopes of finding some inspiration.
I believe our current system (the Gregorian calendar) originated with the Hellenic calendars. Each city state in Greece developed their own calendar system. They each contained 12 months and were lunar based but otherwise varied greatly in names and on what month the year began and ended. These calendars gave me no inspiration though.
In 753 BC, Romulus gave us the Roman calendar. Unlike the Hellenic calendars, it was not lunar based and contained only ten months. Some months had 30 days while others had 31 days, for no apparent reason that I was able to discover, with 61 days of winter not included within any month.
The first four months were named: Martius (March), Aprilis (April), Maius (May), Iunius (June). The last six were named for their position within the calendar: Quintilis (from quinque meaning five), Sextilis (from sex meaning six), September (from septem meaning seven), October (from octo meaning eight), November (from novem meaning nine), and December (from decem meaning ten).
Numa Pompilius, a later roman king, added January and February in 713 BC to the beginning of the calendar, thus screwing up the system for no reason whatsoever. Julius Caesar, followed by Augustus Caesar, later stole the names of two of the months for their own (July and August).
So where, in all that, do you find a name for a new month? Falling between June and July, it would be the seventh month but that would make it September (from septem for seven) which is already taken. The numbering of the later months are all off because of the addition of January and February, so we could similarly adjust the position of our new month and revive Quintilis (from quinque meaning five) but I’m not very fond of that name.
However, pente also means five. In a game where magic is real, and where wizards use pentagrams in their rituals, having a month whose name is derived from pente seems quite apropos. Replacing the first few letters of each of the other months with “pent” resulted in: Pentuary, Pentruary, Pentch, Pentil, Pent, Pente, Penty, Pentust, Pentember, and Pentober. The original Greek names ended in -is or -ius which yielded Pentis and Pentius.
None of these names really jumped out and grabbed me. Of the bunch, Pente seems the best choice so far and is what I am using for the time being. I’m not especially pleased with it but it may grow on me.
Each of the seasons has its own festival, which is a week long. The last day of each festival holds some special significance:
- Spring Festival (the first week of April) ends on the vernal equinox.
- Summer Festival (the second week of Pente) ends on the summer solstice.
- Fall Festival (the third week of September) ends on the autumnal equinox.
- Winter Festival (the last week in December) ends on the winter solstice (which is also the last day of the year).
Since each month contains exactly 28 days, precisely matching the lunar cycle, all lunar events always occur on the same day of the month. Furthermore, every calendar year is exactly the same as every other calendar year. January 1st is always on Sunday and December 28th is always on Saturday. Festivals and holidays always fall on the same day of the week and the printed calendar is reusable from one year to the next.
If only our actual calendar were so convenient.