Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ethiopia time

Ethiopia operates on the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian used by the majority of the world. It has 12 months of 30 days, followed by a short 13th month of five days (six in leap years). The year begins in Gregorian September. It is presently 2006.

The day begins at sunrise: our clock starts in the twelve o'clock position at midnight; theirs starts in this position at our 6am. So a clock running Ethiopia time always appears six hours fast. Or slow. Though initially confusing, this actually seems sensible – why begin the day in the middle of the night?

This could all be horribly confusing if the Ethiopians were not entirely prepared to use Western time with tourists. They essentially run two systems.

I think it's a shame the world didn't settle on the International Fixed Calendar: it has 13 months of 28 days, which operates much more closely to the 28½-day lunar month on which the entire concept of a month is based in the first place. Each month has exactly four weeks of seven days, meaning that the dates of each month fall on the same day of the week as the next month – the first always falls on a Monday, the second on a Tuesday, and the twelfth on a Friday. This accounts for 364 days in the solar year, leaving one monthless day (or two in leap years) as global holidays – Year Day and Leap Year Day.

The idea never got much traction. Religious groups objected that these extra days interfered with the pattern of the seventh day of rest. Strangely, the only institution that ever adopted it was not a country but a business. Kodak. The film company. It was their official calendar until 1989.

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