Lunisolar calendar

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A lunisolar calendar is a calendar in many cultures whose date indicates both the Moon phase and the time of the solar year. If the solar year is defined as a tropical year, then a lunisolar calendar will give an indication of the season; if it is taken as a sidereal year, then the calendar will predict the constellation near which the full moon may occur. As with all calendars which divide the year into months there is an additional requirement that the year have a whole number of months. In this case ordinary years consist of twelve months but every second or third year is an embolismic year, which adds a thirteenth intercalary, embolismic, or leap month.

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Their months are based on the regular cycle of the Moon's phases. So lunisolar calendars are lunar calendars with – in contrast to them – additional intercalation rules being used to bring them into a rough agreement with the solar year and thus with the seasons.

The main other type of calendar is a solar calendar.

Examples

The Hebrew, Jain, Buddhist, Hindu and Kurdish as well as the traditional Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Vietnamese, Mongolian and Korean calendars (in the east Asian cultural sphere), plus the ancient Hellenic, Coligny, and Babylonian calendars are all lunisolar. Also, some of the ancient pre-Islamic calendars in south Arabia followed a lunisolar system. [1] The Chinese, Coligny and Hebrew [2] lunisolar calendars track more or less the tropical year whereas the Buddhist and Hindu lunisolar calendars track the sidereal year. Therefore, the first three give an idea of the seasons whereas the last two give an idea of the position among the constellations of the full moon. The Tibetan calendar was influenced by both the Chinese and Buddhist calendars. The Germanic peoples also used a lunisolar calendar before their conversion to Christianity.

The Islamic calendar is lunar, but not a lunisolar calendar because its date is not related to the Sun. The civil versions of the Julian and Gregorian calendars are solar, because their dates do not indicate the Moon phase – however, both the Gregorian and Julian calendars include undated lunar calendars that allow them to calculate the Christian celebration of Easter, so both are lunisolar calendars in that respect.

Determining leap months

A rough idea of the frequency of the intercalary or leap month in all lunisolar calendars can be obtained by the following calculation, using approximate lengths of months and years in days:

Intercalation of leap months is frequently controlled by the "epact", which is the difference between the lunar and solar years (approximately 11 days). The Metonic cycle, used in the Hebrew calendar and the Julian and Gregorian ecclesiastical calendars, adds seven months during every nineteen-year period. The classic Metonic cycle can be reproduced by assigning an initial epact value of 1 to the last year of the cycle and incrementing by 11 each year. Between the last year of one cycle and the first year of the next the increment is 12. This adjustment, the saltus lunae, causes the epacts to repeat every 19 years. When the epact goes above 29 an intercalary month is added and 30 is subtracted. The intercalary years are numbers 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 19. Both the Hebrew calendar and the Julian calendar use this sequence.

The Buddhist and Hebrew calendars restrict the leap month to a single month of the year; the number of common months between leap months is, therefore, usually 36, but occasionally only 24 months. Because the Chinese and Hindu lunisolar calendars allow the leap month to occur after or before (respectively) any month but use the true motion of the Sun, their leap months do not usually occur within a couple of months of perihelion, when the apparent speed of the Sun along the ecliptic is fastest (now about 3 January). This increases the usual number of common months between leap months to roughly 34 months when a doublet of common years occurs, while reducing the number to about 29 months when only a common singleton occurs.

With uncounted time

An alternative way of dealing with the fact that a solar year does not contain an integer number of months is by including uncounted time in the year that does not belong to any month. [3] Some Coast Salish peoples used a calendar of this kind. For instance, the Chehalis began their count of lunar months from the arrival of spawning chinook salmon (in Gregorian calendar October), and counted 10 months, leaving an uncounted period until the next chinook salmon run. [4]

Gregorian lunisolar calendar

The Gregorian calendar has a lunisolar calendar, which is used to determine the date of Easter. The rules are in the Computus. [5]

List of lunisolar calendars

The following is a list of lunisolar calendars:

See also

Notes

  1. F.C. De Blois, "TAʾRĪKH": I.1.iv. "Pre-Islamic and agricultural calendars of the Arabian peninsula", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, X:260.
  2. The modern Hebrew calendar, since it is based on rules rather than observations, does not exactly track the tropical year, and in fact the average Hebrew year of ~365.2468 days is intermediate between the tropical year (~365.2422 days) and the sidereal year (~365.2564 days).
  3. Nilsson, Martin P. (1920), "Calendar Regulation 1. The Intercalation", Primitive Time-Reckoning: A Study in the Origins and First Development of the Art of Counting Time among the Primitive and Early Culture Peoples, Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup, p. 240, The Lower Thompson Indians in British Columbia counted up to ten or sometimes eleven months, the remainder of the year being called the autumn or late fall. This indefinite period of unnamed months enabled them to bring the lunar and solar year into harmony.
  4. Suttles, Wayne P. Musqueam Reference Grammar, UBC Press, 2004, p. 517.
  5. Richards 2013, p. 583, 592, §15.4.

Related Research Articles

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A calendar is a system of organizing days for social, religious, commercial or administrative purposes. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A date is the designation of a single, specific day within such a system. A calendar is also a physical record of such a system. A calendar can also mean a list of planned events, such as a court calendar or a partly or fully chronological list of documents, such as a calendar of wills.

Hebrew calendar Lunisolar calendar used for Jewish religious observances

The Hebrew or Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar used today predominantly for Jewish religious observances. It determines the dates for Jewish holidays and the appropriate public reading of Torah portions, yahrzeits, and daily Psalm readings, among many ceremonial uses. In Israel, it is used for religious purposes, provides a time frame for agriculture and is an official calendar for civil purposes, although the latter usage has been steadily declining in favor of the Gregorian calendar.

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 both days and months.

A leap year is a calendar year that contains an additional day added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year or seasonal year. Because astronomical events and seasons do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time with respect to the event that the year is supposed to track. By inserting an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year that is not a leap year is a common year.

Lunar calendar Type of calendar

A lunar calendar is a calendar based on the monthly cycles of the Moon's phases, in contrast to solar calendars, whose annual cycles are based only directly on the solar year. The most commonly used calendar, the Gregorian calendar, is a solar calendar system that originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system. A purely lunar calendar is also distinguished from a lunisolar calendar, whose lunar months are brought into alignment with the solar year through some process of intercalation. The details of when months begin varies from calendar to calendar, with some using new, full, or crescent moons and others employing detailed calculations.

A month is a unit of time, used with calendars, which is approximately as long as a natural period related to the motion of the Moon; month and Moon are cognates. The traditional concept arose with the cycle of Moon phases; such months' (lunations) are synodic months and last approximately 29.53 days. From excavated tally sticks, researchers have deduced that people counted days in relation to the Moon's phases as early as the Paleolithic age. Synodic months, based on the Moon's orbital period with respect to the Earth-Sun line, are still the basis of many calendars today, and are used to divide the year.

Metonic cycle period of very close to 19 years that is nearly a common multiple of the solar year and the synodic (lunar) month

The Metonic cycle or enneadecaeteris is a period of 19 years after which the phases of the moon occur on the same day of the year. The recurrence is not perfect and precise observation shows that there is lag of about an hour which would accumulate through a series of cycles. The Metonic cycle is defined as 235 synodic lunar months, a period which is just 1h27m33s longer than 19 tropical years. Using these integer numbers facilitates the construction of a luni-solar calendar.

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The Hindu calendar refers to a set of various lunisolar calendars that are traditionally used in the Indian subcontinent and South-east Asia, with further regional variations for social and Hindu religious purposes. They adopt a similar underlying concept for timekeeping based on sidereal year for solar cycle and adjustment of lunar cycles in every three years, however also differ in their relative emphasis to moon cycle or the sun cycle and the names of months and when they consider the New Year to start. Of the various regional calendars, the most studied and known Hindu calendars are the Shalivahana Shaka found in South India, Vikram Samvat (Bikrami) found in Nepal North and Central regions of India, Tamil calendar used in Tamil Nadu, and the Bengali calendar used in the Bengal – all of which emphasize the lunar cycle. Their new year starts in spring. In contrast, in regions such as Kerala, the solar cycle is emphasized and this is called the Malayalam calendar, their new year starts in autumn, and these have origins in the second half of the 1st millennium CE. A Hindu calendar is sometimes referred to as Panchanga (पञ्चाङ्ग).

The computus is a calculation that determines the calendar date of Easter. Easter is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after 21 March. 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 calendar. The calculations produce different results depending on whether the Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar is used.

The epact used to be described by medieval computists as the age of the Moon in days on 22 March; in the newer Gregorian calendar, however, the epact is reckoned as the age of the ecclesiastical moon on 1 January. Its principal use is in determining the date of Easter by computistical methods. It varies from year to year, because of the difference between the solar year of 365–366 days and the lunar year of 354–355 days.

The history of calendars, that is, of people creating and using methods for keeping track of days and larger divisions of time, covers a practice with ancient roots.

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The Buddhist calendar is a set of lunisolar calendars primarily used in mainland Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand as well as in Sri Lanka and Chinese populations of Malaysia and Singapore for religious or official occasions. While the calendars share a common lineage, they also have minor but important variations such as intercalation schedules, month names and numbering, use of cycles, etc. In Thailand, the name Buddhist Era is a year numbering system shared by the traditional Thai lunisolar calendar and by the Thai solar calendar.

Vikram Samvat and also known as the Vikrami calendar, is the historical Hindu calendar in the Indian subcontinent. It is the official calendar of Nepal. In India it is used in several states. The calendar uses lunar months and solar sidereal years.

The Burmese calendar is a lunisolar calendar in which the months are based on lunar months and years are based on sidereal years. The calendar is largely based on an older version of the Hindu calendar, though unlike the Indian systems, it employs a version of the Metonic cycle. The calendar therefore has to reconcile the sidereal years of the Hindu calendar with the Metonic cycle's near tropical years by adding intercalary months and days at irregular intervals.

Chula Sakarat or Chulasakarat is a lunisolar calendar derived from the Burmese calendar, whose variants were in use by most mainland Southeast Asian kingdoms down to the late 19th century. The calendar is largely based on an older version of the Hindu calendar though unlike the Indian systems, it employs a version of the Metonic cycle. The calendar therefore has to reconcile the sidereal years of the Hindu calendar with Metonic cycle's tropical years by adding intercalary months and intercalary days on irregular intervals.

The Jewish Talmudic Calendar is a lunisolar calendar using Tishri-years, observed by the Jewish people since Late Antiquity. While it is based on Nisan-years, which began from the prebiblical Babylonian times, and the Tishri-years was formed in the time of David, the full formation of the Jewish Talmudic Calendar was during the time of the writing of Talmud, usually attributed to Hillel II.

A Small Mahzor is a 19-year cycle in the lunisolar calendar system used by the Jewish people. It is similar to, but slightly different in usage with, the Greek Metonic cycle.

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