Happy New Year! Which one depends on who you ask

Jan. 04, 2013 @ 01:37 PM

Happy New Year! And, since we live in a country with a Christian background, then have a great 2013. The number “2013” is, of course, based on the birth of Jesus Christ.

Dionysius Exiguus (500-550) was given the task of formulating a numbering system for the years, and he gave Jesus’ birth the year 1 and it caught on. [Later it was discovered that Dionysius was off by several years, Jesus being born 3 to 7 years earlier, but it was too late to change the numbering system.] So the Christian numbering system is based—more or less—on Jesus. Yet other world religions count the years differently because they base their calendars on their own religiously significant events. But before these other religions are considered something else must be said about the Western System.

Usually a year before Jesus’ birth will be given the letters “B.C.,” which stands for “Before Christ” and a year after Jesus will be given the letters “A.D.,” which is Latin for Anno Domini, or “In the year of the (or our) Lord.” [I have not been able to discover why A.D. and B.C. are not in the same language.] Yet new letters are increasingly being used in place of B.C. and A.D.: these are B.C.E. and C.E. These letters stand for “Before the Common Era” and “Common Era.” They were developed in recognition that non-Christians use the Western system who do not want to base their calendar system on Jesus.

Now about the year system of other religions, beginning with the most complicated: the Hindu system. Unlike other religions, Hindus do not have one system of counting years; some scholars estimate as many as thirty systems. The two main year systems today are the Saka calendar and the Vikram Samvat calendar. The Saka Calender began in AD 78; it is believed that King Shalivahana initiated it when he ascended to the throne. The Vikram Samvat Calendar began in 57 BC; it either commemorates the victory of a ruler named Raja Vikramaditya or it was started by King Vikrama. [The origins of these and other Hindu calendars can change from region to region in India.] Thus, in the Saka Calender, this is the year 2013 – 78 or 1935; and in the Vikram Samvat Calendar this is the year 2013+ 57 -1 (since there is not year 0) or 2069.

The Jewish calendar begins on the day that God created Adam. According to the Jewish calendar this occurred in the year (using the Christian calendar) 3760 BC. So this year is 3760 + 2013 or 5773. (Do not subtract one year since this is before the Jewish New Year.)

The Islamic story is a little more complicated, but not much. According to the Muslim faith, Muhammad, after receiving revelations from Allah, began preaching this new faith in his hometown of Mecca. Many people did not approve, and eventually Muhammad had to flee from Mecca to the nearby village of Medina. This occurred in the year AD 622, and the Muslim calendar commemorates this event by placing it at year 1. Thus it would seem that you simply subtract 622 to get the Muslim year. But the Muslim calendar is more like a lunar calendar and so the years are shorter. Therefore it is really the year 1434 in the Muslim calendar.

The Buddhist calendar is similar to the Christian calendar in that it is based upon the primary figure in that religion. Buddhist calendars are based on the death of the Buddha in 544 BC, which is the year many Buddhists believe he went into Nirvana (although some believe this is his birth year). But even this is contested. For example, the Thai Prime Minister in 1940 decided to end confusion in his country by stating that January 1, 1941 was the Buddhist year 2484 and that henceforth it would be determined by adding 543 to the western calendar. Thus this year is 2013 + 543 or 2556.


• Questions/comments contact Mark at drnickens@triad.rr.com.