Calendars of the World

An excerpt from the Reader's Companion to the Year of the Red Door

As of the year 870 of the Second Age, there were two commonly known calendar systems, the Royal Calendar and the "standard" Calendar of Duinnor, the former being for ceremonial purposes. It is the Royal Calendar, not the standard calendar, from which the names of years are derived (see below).

Until the middle of the Second Age, there were a variety of calendars in use in the world. The Dragonkind, Vanarans, Duinnor, and Glareth all used different calendar systems. It was common practice in the Eastlands Realm to use the Glareth Calendar, while Tracia and Masurthia used the Duinnor Calendar. Altoria used its own calendar before adopting that used by Vanara. All of these systems changed over time in various ways, and used a variety of schemes when it came to the months of the year and the days of the week. Most were based on the lunar cycles, with Duinnor being a notable exception, using a solar calendar instead (as the Dragonkind consistently did throughout their history).

Realizing that trade depended upon some agreement on a consistent calendar system, in Year 246 S.A., the Council of Time was formed of scholars from all Realms. Their purpose in meeting was to discuss, debate, and decide on a new system. Vanara was chosen as a meeting place due to its many observatories.

For twenty years, scholars pored over documents, consulted with astrologers and time-keepers, and debated over proposed schemes. Eventually three systems were considered, and the Duinnor Calendar was accepted with a few minor changes to it. Politically, this was an easy choice since Duinnor exerted little power and choice of its system was deemed a compromise between vying representatives allied to Glareth, Vanara, and Masurthia (the most powerful Realms of the time).

The Duinnor Calendar (not to be confused with the Royal Calendar, see below) itself is something of an amalgamation of previous conventions. It consisted of twelve months of thirty days. Certain other days of the year were not to be counted as part of a month, these were the first day of each year, called New Year's Day, and the days of Winter and Summer Solstice, and Spring and Autumn Equinox. These made a year consisting of 365 days.

The names of the months were to be called Firstmonth, Secondmonth, Thirdmonth, et cetera.

This system had the advantage of retaining the general references to the lunar calendars of the other Realms, but was, in fact, based on a solar year. Unlike the old calendars prevalently used, New Year's Day would begin a week and two days after Midwinter's Day, rather than on the following day.

There are twenty-three standard hours in each calendar day, each consisting of sixty minutes. Each day of the calendar begins at sunrise. The twenty-fourth hour of each day, called the Endhour, was the last hour before dawn, consisting of the remaining minutes until sunrise. Thus, the last hour was sometimes the longest, and sometimes the shortest hour of the day.

A standard hour was based on the time between sunrise on the day of and after the vernal equinox, divided by twenty-four. Although hours were not commonly used until the invention of accurate and cheaply produced clocks in the late Second Age, scholars understood them to be based on a standard of sixty minutes (each of sixty seconds). When clocks came into use, the daily adjustment of them by their owners became a sunrise ritual. Because of this and other irregularities, new calendar systems were being discussed by scholars in the late Second Age which would do away with the inconvenient Endhour and compensate for seasonal drift that was taking place in spite of the intentions of the current system.

The Royal Duinnor Calendar, which pertains to the King's Year, starts from noon of each Spring Equinox, and is a ceremonial calendar for the regnal year of the Unknown Kings. On the morning of the Spring Equinox, the Unknown King of Duinnor goes forth to the Temple of Beras and returns from there with a new Avatar. From thenceforth the year is named after the shape of the King's Avatar. Hence, the Year of the Snowflake, the Year of the Red Door, et cetera. Why the Avatar takes a different shape each year, and the meaning of the shape, remains a mystery. This calendar was begun by the First Unknown King and persists although its value is primarily ceremonial.

Courtesy of The Reader's Companion to the Year of the Red Door
© 2016 by William Timothy Murray

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