March 26, 2014

Another New Year?

House Finch
House Finch in spring

Last Thursday, March 20th, was the first day of Spring - the vernal equinox. After one of the coldest, harshest winters this area has seen in decades, we are ready for some spring...but we'll have to wait just a little bit longer. This morning in Toronto it was -10°C (-17°C with the windchill factor). In fairness to Toronto, this has been a slightly atypical winter, long overstaying its welcome — I mean it's almost as cold as it was on New Year's Day out there! But then, if I had my way, last Thursday would have been New Year's Day.

Northern Cardinals
Pope Gregory XIII almost certainly never saw a female Cardinal
Calendar reform is not exactly a hot-button issue these days. In fact, it's been four hundred and thirty-two years since we last had one. We have lived by the Gregorian Calendar (a modest improvement on the Julian Calendar) passed into papal law February 24th, 1582. We've all grown up with it, we've known no other calendar and we've accepted it with all it's flaws. Years ago, I'm not sure when (I was either a teenager or in my early twenties), I invented my own calendar reform and I called it The Craigorian Calendar.

It all started with my long-standing frustration with New Year's Eve. You see, I am a huge fan of Christmas. I'm not a religious person; to me, as with many in the Western world these days, Christmas is more of a secular holiday. It's about food, music, decorations, presents, and Santa Claus. I love every part of it, but as much fun as Christmas is, it can be tiring and the last thing I want to do just one week later is gear up for another holiday. So...what if we had New Year's at another time of year? A time when there's not so much going on, perhaps.

Here is my proposal: Under the Craigorian Calendar, March 1st will be New Year's Day AND the first day of Spring.

"But the first day of spring is tied to the equinox", you say. And you're right. That's no problem we can't overcome. All we have to do to solve that is shift everything backward eighteen days on the year we implement the new calendar. It would be sort of like Daylight Saving Time. If, for example, this year had been the year we change from Gregorian to Craigorian, the calendar would have moved as normal through the year from March 17th to March 18th to March 19th and then the shift - the following day is March 1st again (people with birthdays in the first nineteen days of March would be very grateful). The reason it's eighteen days is that the equinox currently falls on the 19th, 20th or 21st of March, and this way it will get us to March 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, (which the Craigorian system likes much more than having the first day of spring at the end of February). By now you're surely thinking, "This all sounds a little confusing." Maybe you're right, but that's the end of the confusing stuff, from here on out it's all gravy.

Sure, there's still some imprecision, but that's okay; for the most part March 1st, New Year's Day is within a day or two of being the first day of Spring - a day of rebirth, budding leaves and chirping birds - what could be more sensible and poetic than that?
And from this we have a very sensible Spring season of March-April-May. Summer is June-July-August, Autumn is September-October-November, and the year ends with the Winter months: December-January-February. None of this 'two-thirds of the way through the month' seasonal-change nonsense, just neat and tidy 'beginning-of-the-month' season changes.

The added bonus when we do this is that September, once again, becomes the seventh month -- October, the eighth, November becomes the ninth and December, the tenth month. "How very sensible!", you must be thinking by now...if you live in the northern hemisphere. But what about all those antipodeans down there in the southern hemisphere? To them I say, "hey, nothing's perfect."

Brown-headed Cowbird
Female Brown-headed Cowbird with spring blossoms

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