From kalendae to calendars

By Dr Khwaja Ali Shahid
Fri, 01, 21

Just like there is no Christmas without presents and a Santa and no Holi without colors, similarly there isn’t a new year without some unrealistic resolutions and a calendar to look forward to....


The months of December-January bring with them different associations for different people. For some, it’s the joy Christmas brings to their lives and some mark it with the passing of the year gone by. Mostly, people look forward to the arrival of the new year, as they hope that it is better than the one that concluded. Of course, students await the arrival of December more than anyone else, as it means winter break from schools for them.

Just like there is no Christmas without presents and a Santa and no Holi without colors, similarly there isn’t a new year without some unrealistic resolutions and a calendar to look forward to. When Romans came up with the idea of introducing the modern day calendar to the world centuries back, they could never have guessed the importance and impact it would have in the centuries to follow.

In Pakistan, the paper-based wall hanging calendar remained one of the ‘have to be there in a home’ things for decades. It was actually perceived by many as a necessity at every turn of year. This provided the corporate companies around with an opportunity to advertise their organization while using the calendar as a giveaway or free gift. Those who were, till then, used to buying a calendar every year were now benefiting from these giveaway calendars for free.

Generally, these calendars would depict and carry beautiful scenery or a message of hope to even couplets of renowned poets to religious abodes, with the sponsoring company’s name, logo or symbol down at the bottom. However, as competition became tougher and costlier, the companies with constraints or limited exposure started putting the snapshots of their products and services on the calendars, rather than anything else.

The meaning, usage and preference of calendars vary for people around. For instance, Mrs. Zehra Rizvi, 70, a grandmother, generally prefers a calendar with the previous and next month’s dates all prominently visible and present on one side and on one page only! She marks the housemaid’s absences, different utility bills payments deadlines and even use it as a planner for her social activities. By simply looking at her calendar, one can easily assess how her previous few weeks had been and also what her immediate and future plans are.

In my house, I have seen the calendar being used to mark the days when the hawker didn’t deliver the newspaper, with a line written by my mother explaining that no one is supposed to give him the full money, as he didn’t deliver the English language newspaper on a Saturday or an Urdu one on some Wednesday, etc. Some may feel that it is the best place to maintain the launderer’s (dhobi) record, while for others it is an easy way to remember the upcoming birthdays, weddings and other family events. After all, who wants to miss meeting family and friends just because they forgot the date?

The choice of calendars people make varies according to heir age group and perspective. Children usually go for some action figures or cartoon characters, athletes go for their sports idols and more sensitive ones with the calendars portraying the artistic prowess of masters, like paintings or poetry. Models, actors and actresses generally feature on those hanging in a barber shop or hair saloon.

A good number of people prefer ones with the corresponding Islamic year dates. Again, there are those who want a calendar which depicts official holidays and weekends in prominent colours so they can plan ahead their vacations or off weekends.

Buying calendars, few decades back, was just like buying a new cell phone today. One would choose, among a dozen or so, a calendar that would reflect, showcase and complement their taste, values, theme and insight! It was generally the first decision for the year, for the family or the buyer, which was needed to be taken before the year actually began.

Dr. Tuaha’s family prefer one with no pictures of any human being and - if possible - with no living things as it creates hindrance to their daily prayers and religious obligations. The simpler their calendar is, the better it is for them! And then there are those who may prefer any type of calendars, but with larger font size due to eyesight weaknesses.

Even in a country where environment was not a very popular topic among the locals till a few years back, these calendars are being extensively re-used for different purposes and hence are of utility even after the thirty-first of December every year, or even after every month for that matter. After spending its usefulness as a date-day-month teller, it is used by many parents as a white cover for the copies and books of their school going children, and you may have also seen many broken windows in your locality being temporarily fixed and mended with calendars or newspapers.

Some mothers tend to put one page of the calendar for the month gone by, as a sheet on the wardrobe shelves before putting in their children’s clothes and other accessories.

Tahir is a keen and motivated individual who is always promoting the concept of recycling. He reuses the calendar for almost all the above mentioned purposes and even reuse it for making different lists: groceries, to-do-list and even the New Year’s resolutions’ lists (both realistic and the unrealistic ones)!

Over the last few years, however, the popularity of paper calendar has been jolted by both technology and economy. The presence of mobile phones, in virtually every pair of hands, offering ‘calendars and planners’ as one of the most basic functions resulted in people seldom going towards that particular pillar where that calendar used to hang or the office/bank entrance or even the writing table where it was generally placed. Economy also became one of the reasons as locally tax was imposed on the giveaways, too, making it an expensive marketing activity for small and medium sized firms. Those who were used to getting a free calendar every year probably now consider it an unnecessary expense. Something that is fine if given as a present, but definitely not to be bought by themselves.

As technology progressed, it provided us with smaller, lighter and sleeker gadgets with multiple functions and hundreds of things in one gadget while helping us to become more organized, leaving our study or work tables less cluttered. However, it also resulted in the evacuation of some of the very basic, simple and instilled aspects of our lives as well. Moving towards a new, better option is only good when those living with you, especially those who are from one or even two generations back, are on the same wavelength as you are.

Just as the years old tradition of exchanging personalized Eid cards gave way to customized E-cards and finally ended up in a somewhat less appealing and heartless forwarded Eid greetings on sms, the essence of the wall hanging calendars might also wither away in the same manner. Believe it or not, over the last few decades, it somehow became an integral part of our lives, of our homes and culture. A calendar, in a home, has become a reflection of the dweller’s identity!

Dr. Khwaja Ali Shahid tweets as @Ali_Shahid82

The Julian calendar

The Roman calendar was a very complicated lunar calendar, based on the moon phases. In order to create a more standardized calendar, Julius Caesar consulted an Alexandrian astronomer named Sosigenes and created a more regulated civil calendar, a solar calendar based entirely on Earth’s revolutions around the Sun, also called a tropical year. It takes our planet on average, approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds (365.242189 days) to complete one full orbit around the Sun.

February 30 was a real date

Today, the month of February has 28 days in common years and 29 days in leap years. But February 30 has been a real date at least twice in history.

Sweden added the date to its 1712 calendar following an earlier calendar error; the Soviet Union observed February 30 in 1930 and 1931 in an attempt to cut seven-day weeks into five-day weeks and to introduce 30-day months for every working month.

Most widely used calendar

The Gregorian Calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world today. It is a solar calendar based on a 365-day common year divided into 12 months of irregular lengths. 11 of the months have either 30 or 31 days, while the second month, February, has only 28 days during the common year. However, nearly every four years is a leap year, when one extra – or intercalary – day, is added on 29 February, making the leap year in the Gregorian calendar 366 days long.

The original goal of the Gregorian calendar was to change the date of Easter. In 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced his Gregorian calendar, Europe adhered to the Julian calendar, first implemented by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. Since the Roman emperor’s system miscalculated the length of the solar year by 11 minutes, the calendar had since fallen out of sync with the seasons. This concerned Gregory because it meant that Easter, traditionally observed on March 21, fell further away from the spring equinox with each passing year.