Calendar reform: Time for a change?

JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Calendar reform advocates are convinced that a new, standardized alternative to the Gregorian calendar would save trouble and money.

Two such advocates have proposed a new calendar in which each new 12-month period is identical to the one before, except for a “leap week” thrown in at occasional, but regular, intervals.

Going by the proposed Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, for instance, if Christmas fell on a Sunday in 2012 (and it would), it would also fall on a Sunday in 2013, 2014, and every succeeding year.

The mnemonic rhyme “30 days hath September, April, June and November,” would no longer be accurate, since September would have 31 days, as would March, June, and December, the months ending each calendar quarter. All other months—the first two months of each quarter—would last 30 days.


“Our plan offers a stable calendar that is absolutely identical from year to year and which allows the permanent, rational planning of annual activities, from school to work holidays,” says Richard Conn Henry, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University.

“Think about how much time and effort are expended each year in redesigning the calendar of every single organization in the world,” he says, “and it becomes obvious that our calendar would make life much simpler and would have noteworthy benefits.”

Among the practical advantages would be the convenience afforded by birthdays and holidays (as well as work holidays) falling on the same day of the week every year. But the economic benefits are even more profound, says Johns Hopkins applied economist Steve H. Hanke, an expert in international economics and monetary policy.

“Our calendar would simplify financial calculations and eliminate what we call the ‘rip off’ factor,'” Hanke says. “Determining how much interest accrues on mortgages, bonds, forward rate agreements, swaps, and others, day counts are required.

“Our current calendar is full of anomalies that have led to the establishment of a wide range of conventions that attempt to simplify interest calculations. Our proposed permanent calendar has a predictable 91-day quarterly pattern of two months of 30 days and a third month of 31 days, which does away with the need for artificial day count conventions.”

Hanke and Henry say their calendar is an improvement on the dozens of rival reform calendars proffered by individuals and institutions over the past century.

“Attempts at reform have failed in the past because all of the major ones have involved breaking the seven-day cycle of the week, which is not acceptable to many people because it violates the Fourth Commandment about keeping the Sabbath Day,” Henry says. “Our version never breaks that cycle.”

Henry argues that his team’s version is far more convenient, sensible, and easier to use than the current Gregorian calendar, which has been in place since 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII altered a calendar that had been instituted in 46 BC by Julius Caesar.

The Gregorian reform was instituted to deal with the fact that a solar year is slightly shorter than the 365.25 days that had been calculated centuries earlier. In an effort to bring the calendar back into synch with the seasons, the pope’s team also removed 11 days from the calendar in October 1582, so that Oct. 4 was followed immediately by Oct. 15.

Like Gregory’s calendar makers, Hanke and Henry had to deal with the fact that a solar year is actually 365.2422 days long, making, under the Gregorian system, a “leap day” necessary almost, but not quite, every four years. The Hanke-Henry approach was to construct a standard, unchanging 364-day calendar and add a “leap week” at the end of December every five or six years.

In addition to adoption of their calendar, Hanke and Henry want to see the abolition of time zones and the adoption of “Universal Time” (formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time) in order to synchronize dates and times worldwide, streamlining international business.

“One time throughout the world, one date throughout the world,” they write in their article, published in the journal Global Asia.

“Business meetings, sports schedules, and school calendars would be identical every year,” they write. “Today’s cacophony of time zones, daylight savings times, and calendar fluctuations, year after year, would be over. The economy—that’s all of us—would receive a permanent ‘harmonization’ dividend.”

More news from Johns Hopkins: