Mayan, Chinese and Hijri lunar calendars

What is 'lunar calendar' ? This is just usual calendar, which is composed on the basis of moon cycles. Such calendars have been in use since antique times – evidence of their use were found by archaeological missions, and earliest calendars are dated 30,000 BC. They found various Ice Age artifacts, which were all dated around 25,000 and 10,000 BC, consisting of sticks, animal bones and tusks with gouged holes and carved notches on their surface. Academics suppose these artifacts were used as first lunar calendars, and those marks signified days between phases of the moon.

Famous Mayan Calendar system was based on moon phases with a great influence of requirement for agricultural activities in the rainforest. Mayan were the inventors of many various calendar systems, but their most important calendar was so-called 'the sacred tzolkin', which contained 260 days a year and 2 repeating cycles – one of them has twenty (20) named days, the other one contained thirteen (13) numbered days.


Another calendar system was invented by Babylonians and it was the same as our modern one: 12 months, each of 29 or 30 days long. Babylonian people called 30-day long months as 'full', and 29-days long were named 'hollow'. But later they eventually changed their calendar to an Egyptian system: 12 months, each had 30 days. This calendar was successfully in use for more than 3000 years – until 238 BC.

Originally, the Chinese were the first to use lunar calendar for planning of their planting, harvesting activities along with best times for celebrations and festivals. Although most of Chinese citizens nowadays use the Western calendar (solar calendar) in their day-to-day life, lunar calendar is still in a wide use mainly for festival celebrations and holiday dates. Such coexistence of two different calendars has been easily accepted by the Chinese people and they have learned how to use and get advantages out of both.

The only lunar calendar, which has a wide use today is the Islamic calendar, known as the Hijri in Islamic culture. Like the solar calendar the lunar Hijri calendar also has 12 months, but the length of months is varying – that is why they cannot be linked to a changing seasons. Hijri is the official calendar only in several Muslim countries (those, located around the Gulf, Saudi Arabia), the other Muslin countries live by the Gregorian solar calendar and use the Islamic calendar only for religious purposes.