Coptic calendar

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Coptic calendar 11 Parmouti 1740

The Coptic calendar, also called the Alexandrian calendar, is a liturgical calendar used by the Coptic Orthodox Church and also used by the farming populace in Egypt. It was used for fiscal purposes in Egypt until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar on 11 September 1875 (1st Thout 1592 AM). [1] This calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar. To avoid the calendar creep of the latter (which contained only 365 days each year, year after year, so that the seasons shifted about one day every four years), a reform of the ancient Egyptian calendar was introduced at the time of Ptolemy III (Decree of Canopus, in 238 BC) which consisted of adding an extra day every fourth year. However, this reform was opposed by the Egyptian priests, and the reform was not adopted until 25 BC, when the Roman Emperor Augustus imposed the Decree upon Egypt as its official calendar (although initially, namely between 25 BC and AD 5, it was unsynchronised with the original implementation of the Julian calendar which was erroneously intercalating leap days every third year due to a misinterpretation of the leap year rule so as to apply inclusive counting). [2] To distinguish it from the Ancient Egyptian calendar, which remained in use by some astronomers until medieval times, this reformed calendar is known as the Coptic or Alexandrian calendar. Its years and months coincide with those of the Ethiopian calendar but have different numbers and names. [3]


Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the Coptic calendar does not skip leap years three times every 400 years, and therefore it stays synchronised with the Julian calendar over a four-year leap year cycle. [4] [5]

Coptic year

The Coptic year is the extension of the ancient Egyptian civil year, retaining its subdivision into the three seasons, four months each. The three seasons are commemorated by special prayers in the Coptic Liturgy. This calendar is still in use all over Egypt by farmers to keep track of the various agricultural seasons. [6]

The Coptic calendar has 13 months, 12 of 30 days each and one at the end of the year of five days (six days in leap years). The Coptic Leap Year follows the same rules as the Julian Calendar so that the extra month always has six days in the year before a Julian Leap Year. [7]

The year starts on the Feast of Neyrouz, the first day of the month of Thout, the first month of the Egyptian year. For 1900 to 2099 it coincides with the Gregorian Calendar's 11 September, or 12 September before a leap year, but for any year, it coincides with the Julian Calendar's 29 August, or 30 August before a leap year. Coptic years are counted from 284 AD, the year Diocletian became Roman Emperor, whose reign was marked by tortures and mass executions of Christians, especially in Egypt. [7] Hence, the Coptic year is identified by the abbreviation A.M. (for Anno Martyrum or "in the Year of the Martyrs"). The first day of year I of the Coptic era was 29 August 284 in the Julian calendar. Note that the abbreviation A.M. is also used for unrelated calendar eras (such as the Freemasonic and Jewish calendar epochs) which start at the putative creation of the world; it then stands for Anno Mundi .

Easter is reckoned by the Julian Calendar in combination with the uncorrected repetition of the 19-year Metonic cycle. [8]

To obtain the Coptic year number, subtract from the Julian year number either 283 (before the Julian new year) or 284 (after it).

Date of Christmas

Coptic Christmas is observed on what the Julian Calendar labels 25 December, a date that currently corresponds with 7 January on the more widely used Gregorian Calendar (which is also when Christmas is observed in many Eastern Orthodox countries such as Russia). The 25 December Nativity of Christ was alleged very early by Hippolytus of Rome (170–236) in his Commentary on Daniel 4:23: "The first coming of our Lord, that in the flesh, in which he was born at Bethlehem, took place eight days before the calends of January, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, 5500 years from Adam." [note 1] "Another early source is Theophilus Bishop of Caesarea (115–181): "We ought to celebrate the birth-day of our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen." [10] [note 2] However, it was not until 367 that 25 December began to be universally accepted. Before that, the Eastern Church had kept 6 January as the Nativity under the name "Epiphany." John Chrysostom, in a sermon preached in Antioch in 387, relates how the correct date of the Nativity was brought to the East ten years earlier. [11] Dionysius of Alexandria emphatically quoted mystical justifications for this very choice. 25 March was considered to be the anniversary of Creation itself. It was the first day of the year in the medieval Julian, or Old Style, calendar and the nominal vernal equinox (it had been the actual equinox at the time of the Decree of Canopus in terms of the Julian calendar which adopted it without correction when originally designed). Considering that Jesus was thought to have been conceived on New Year's Day of the Old Style calendar, 25 March was recognised as the Feast of the Annunciation which had to be followed, nine months later, by the celebration of the birth of Christ, Christmas, on 25 December.

There may have been more practical considerations for choosing 25 December. The choice would help substitute a major Christian holiday for the popular Pagan celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice (Roman Sol Sticia, the three-day stasis when the sun would rise consecutively in its southernmost point before heading north, 21, 22 and 23 December. In AD 274, Emperor Aurelian had declared a civil holiday on 25 December (the "Festival of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun") to celebrate the deity Sol Invictus. Finally, joyous festivals are needed at that time of year to fight the natural gloom of the season (in the Northern Hemisphere). [12]

Until the 16th century, 25 December coincided with 29 Koiak of the Coptic calendar. However, upon the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, 25 December shifted 10 days earlier in comparison with the Julian and Coptic calendars. Furthermore, the Gregorian calendar drops 3 leap days every 400 years to closely approximate the length of a solar year. As a result, the Coptic Christmas advances a day each time the Gregorian calendar drops a leap day (years AD 1700, 1800, and 1900). [13] This is the reason why Old-Calendarists (using the Julian and Coptic calendars) presently celebrate Christmas on 7 January, 13 days after the New-Calendarists (using the Gregorian calendar), who celebrate Christmas on 25 December. From AD 2101, the Coptic Christmas will be on the Gregorian date of 8 January.

Date of Easter

The First Council of Nicaea (325) sent a letter to the Church of Alexandria stating "all our brethren in the East who formerly followed the custom of the Jews are henceforth to celebrate the said most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning." [14]

At the Council of Nicaea, it became one of the duties of the patriarch of Alexandria to determine the dates of the Easter and to announce it to the other Christian churches. [15] This duty fell on this officiate because of the erudition at Alexandria he could draw on. The rules to determine this are complex, but Easter is the first Sunday after a full moon occurring after the northern vernal equinox, which falls on or after 21 March in Alexandria. When Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, the northern vernal equinox was nominally on 25 March which was abandoned shortly after Nicaea. The reason for the observed discrepancy was all but ignored (the actual tropical year is not quite equal to the Julian year of 36514 days, so the date of the equinox keeps creeping back in the Julian calendar).

Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, there are different dates for holidays. In recent years there have been multiple attempts to unify these dates. Some people are skeptical about the success of these attempts. Eastern Orthodox use the Julian calendar while Catholics use the Gregorian calendar. Pope Tawadros, the Coptic pope, and Pope Francis, the Catholic pope, agreed to the proposal to celebrate Easter on the same day. Pope Tawadros's suggested to celebrate Easter on the second Sunday of April. [16]

Coptic months

The following table refers to dates for Coptic years not containing 29 February. Such years are preceded by a Coptic leap day at the end of the preceding year. This causes dates to move one day later in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars from the Coptic New Year's Day until the leap day of the Julian or Gregorian Calendar respectively.

Coptic Months
No.Name Ethiopian calendar Julian Calendar DatesGregorian Calendar Dates (1900–2099)SeasonCoptic Name origin [17] [18]
of Coptic
Arabic [19]
1ⲐⲱⲟⲩⲧⲐⲟⲟⲩⲧ Thout توتTūtMäskäräm (መስከረም)29 August – 27 September11 September – 10 OctoberAkhet (Inundation)ḏḥwty: Thoth, god of Wisdom and Science
2ⲠⲁⲟⲡⲓⲠⲁⲱⲡⲉ Paopi بابهBābahṬəqəmt(i) (ጥቅምት)28 September – 27 October11 October – 9 Novemberpꜣ-n-jpt: Opet Festival
3ⲀⲑⲱⲣϨⲁⲑⲱⲣ Hathor هاتورHātūrḪədar (ኅዳር)28 October – 26 November10 November – 9 DecemberḤwt-ḥr: Hathor, goddess of beauty and love (the land is lush and green)
4ⲬⲟⲓⲁⲕⲔⲟⲓⲁϩⲕ Koiak كياكKyakTaḫśaś ( ታኅሣሥ)27 November – 26 December10 December – 8 Januarykꜣ-ḥr-kꜣ: "spirit upon spirit," the name of a festival
5ⲦⲱⲃⲓⲦⲱⲃⲉ Tobi طوبهṬūbahṬərr(i) (ጥር)27 December – 25 January9 January – 7 FebruaryProyet, Peret, Poret (Growth)tꜣ-ꜥꜣbt: "The offering"
6ⲘⲉϣⲓⲣⲘϣⲓⲣ Meshir أمشيرʾAmshīrYäkatit (Tn. Läkatit) (የካቲት)26 January – 24 February8 February – 9 Marchmḫjr: The name of a festival, perhaps identical with a type of basket used in that festival
7ⲠⲁⲣⲉⲙϩⲁⲧⲠⲁⲣⲙϩⲟⲧⲡ Paremhat برمهاتBaramhātMägabit (መጋቢት)25 February – 26 March10 March – 8 Aprilpꜣ-n-jmnḥtp: "Festival of Amenhotep"
8ⲪⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲑⲓⲠⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲧⲉ Parmouti برمودهBaramūdahMiyazya (ሚያዝያ)27 March – 25 April9 April – 8 Maypꜣ-n-Rnnwtt: "Festival of harvest goddess Renenutet"
9ⲠⲁϣⲟⲛⲥⲠⲁϣⲟⲛⲥ Pashons بشنسBashansGənbo (t) (ግንቦት)26 April – 25 May9 May – 7 JuneShomu or Shemu (Harvest)pꜣ-n-ḫnsw "Festival of Khonsu"
10ⲠⲁⲱⲛⲓⲠⲁⲱⲛⲉ Paoni بأونهBaʾūnahSäne (ሰኔ)26 May – 24 June8 June – 7 Julypꜣ-n-jnt: valley festival
11ⲈⲡⲓⲡⲈⲡⲏⲡ Epip أبيبʾAbībḤamle (ሐምሌ)25 June – 24 July8 July – 6 Augustjpjp: meaning unknown
12ⲘⲉⲥⲱⲣⲓⲘⲉⲥⲱⲣⲏ Mesori مسراMesraNähase (ነሐሴ)25 July – 23 August7 August – 5 Septembermswt rꜥ: birth of Ra
13Ⲡⲓⲕⲟⲩϫⲓ ⲛ̀ⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧⲈⲡⲁⲅⲟⲙⲉⲛⲁⲓ [20] Pi Kogi Enavot نسيئNasīʾṖagʷəmen/Ṗagume (ጳጐሜን/ጳጉሜ)24 August – 28 August6–10 SeptemberBohairic: The Little Month;

Sahidic: Greek ἐπαγόμεναι < ἐπαγωγή < ἐπαγειν < ἐπι + ἄγειν: to bring in


See also


  1. Correction: the actual quote from Hippolytus is "For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year." [9] The insertion of "eight days..." is from "Chronography of 354" and the insertion of the "forty-second year" is from Eusebius.
  2. Another correction: Theophilus of Caesarea only said the following: "We would have you know, too, that in Alexandria also they observe the festival on the same day as ourselves. For the Paschal letters are sent from us to them, and from them to us: so that we observe the holy day in unison and together." No mention of Dec. 25th.

Related Research Articles

Intercalation or embolism in timekeeping is the insertion of a leap day, week, or month into some calendar years to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases. Lunisolar calendars may require intercalations of days or months.

The Julian calendar is a solar calendar of 365 days in every year with an additional leap day every fourth year. The Julian calendar is still used as a religious calendar in parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church and in parts of Oriental Orthodoxy as well as by the Amazigh people.

A leap year is a calendar year that contains an additional day compared to a common year. The 366th day is added to keep the calendar year synchronised with the astronomical year or seasonal year. Since astronomical events and seasons do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars having a constant number of days each year will unavoidably drift over time with respect to the event that the year is supposed to track, such as seasons. By inserting ("intercalating") an additional day—a leap day—or month—a leap month—into some years, the drift between a civilization's dating system and the physical properties of the Solar System can be corrected.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New Year</span> Beginning of the calendar year

The New Year is the time or day at which a new calendar year begins and the calendar's year count increments by one. Many cultures celebrate the event in some manner. In the Gregorian calendar, the most widely used calendar system today, New Year occurs on January 1. This was also the first day of the year in the original Julian calendar and the Roman calendar.

The Revised Julian calendar, or less formally the new calendar and also known as the Milanković calendar, is a calendar proposed in 1923 by the Serbian scientist Milutin Milanković as a more accurate alternative to both Julian and Gregorian calendars. At the time, the Julian calendar was still in use by all of the Eastern Orthodox Churches and affiliated nations, while the Catholic and Protestant nations were using the Gregorian calendar. Thus, Milanković's aim was to discontinue the divergence between the naming of dates in Eastern and Western churches and nations. It was intended to replace the Julian calendar in Eastern Orthodox Churches and nations. From 1 March 1600 through 28 February 2800, the Revised Julian calendar aligns its dates with the Gregorian calendar, which had been proclaimed in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

Reform of the date of Easter refers to proposals to change the date for the annual celebration of Easter. These proposals include setting a fixed date or agreeing between Eastern and Western Christendom a common basis for calculating the date of Easter so that all Christians celebrate the Festival on the same day. As of 2023, no such agreement has been reached.

A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the season or almost equivalently the apparent position of the Sun relative to the stars. The Gregorian calendar, widely accepted as a standard in the world, is an example of a solar calendar. The main other types of calendar are lunar calendar and lunisolar calendar, whose months correspond to cycles of Moon phases. The months of the Gregorian calendar do not correspond to cycles of the Moon phase.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dionysius Exiguus</span> Byzantine saint (c. 470 – c. 544)

Dionysius Exiguus was a 6th-century Eastern Roman monk born in Scythia Minor. He was a member of a community of Scythian monks concentrated in Tomis, the major city of Scythia Minor. Dionysius is best known as the inventor of Anno Domini (AD) dating, which is used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the (Christianised) Julian calendar. Almost all churches adopted his computus for the dates of Easter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New Year's Day</span> First day of the year in the Gregorian calendar; 1 January

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Date of Easter</span> Calculation of its date

As a moveable feast, the date of Easter is determined in each year through a calculation known as computus. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon. Determining this date in advance requires a correlation between the lunar months and the solar year, while also accounting for the month, date, and weekday of the Julian or Gregorian calendar. The complexity of the algorithm arises because of the desire to associate the date of Easter with the date of the Jewish feast of Passover which, Christians believe, is when Jesus was crucified.

The Ethiopian calendar, or Ge'ez calendar is the official calendar of Ethiopia. It is used as both the civil calendar and an ecclesiastical calendar. It is the liturgical year for Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians belonging to the Orthodox Tewahedo Churches, Eastern Catholic Churches, and Eastern Protestant Christian P'ent'ay Churches. The Ethiopian calendar is a solar calendar that has much in common with the Coptic calendar of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Coptic Catholic Church, but like the Julian calendar, it adds a leap day every four years without exception, and begins the year on 11 or 12th of September in the Julian calendar. A gap of seven to eight years between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars results from an alternative calculation in determining the date of the Annunciation.

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Inter gravissimas was a papal bull issued by Pope Gregory XIII on 24 February 1582. The document, written in Latin, reformed the Julian calendar. The reform came to be regarded as a new calendar in its own right and came to be called the Gregorian calendar, which is used in most countries today.

The intercalary month or epagomenal days of the ancient Egyptian, Coptic, and Ethiopian calendars are a period of five days in common years and six days in leap years in addition to those calendars' 12 standard months, sometimes reckoned as their thirteenth month. They originated as a periodic measure to ensure that the heliacal rising of Sirius would occur in the 12th month of the Egyptian lunar calendar but became a regular feature of the civil calendar and its descendants. Coptic and Ethiopian leap days occur in the year preceding Julian and Gregorian leap years.

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The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most parts of the world. It went into effect in October 1582 following the papal bull Inter gravissimas issued by Pope Gregory XIII, which introduced it as a modification of, and replacement for, the Julian calendar. The principal change was to space leap years differently so as to make the average calendar year 365.2425 days long, more closely approximating the 365.2422-day 'tropical' or 'solar' year that is determined by the Earth's revolution around the Sun.

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Pope Peter I of Alexandria was the 17th Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria. He is revered as a saint by the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Catholic Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Adoption of the Gregorian calendar</span> Transition to "New Style" dating system

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Hathor 28 – Coptic calendar – Hathor 30


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  16. "Popes Francis and Tawadros agree one Easter for all". Watani. 2015-10-25. Retrieved 2023-05-27.
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