Days, weeks, months, and years. We take these simple measurements for granted even though we use them every day – our entire world runs based on our sense of time and place.
But the natural history behind our global calendar isn’t nearly as simple as it feels. It isn’t easy to pin down our place in the universe – how we dance around our sun – so exactly that we can estimate the first days of summer and winter within a few days.
Let’s look at how our exact place in the universe determined our modern calendar, and how such accurate time-telling might push us out of sync with nature here on Earth.
A Brief Gregorian Calendar History Lesson
Just under 500 years ago, society faced a bit of a problem. Since the time of Julius Caesar, the Western world had been using the humbly named Julian calendar. And as time passed, the Julian calendar fell further and further behind the solar calendar that dictates our seasons and skies.
This is because the Julian calendar has an average year of 365.25 days and found itself 11.5 minutes off of the solar calendar. Not a big deal, right? Considering the period during which the calendar was introduced, that’s actually pretty impressive! But those minutes add up, and by the 1500s society found itself 10 days behind solar time.
That’s why, in October 1582, Pope Gregory XIII implemented the (also humbly named) Gregorian calendar and propelled the world 10 days ahead. October 4th was followed promptly by October 15th and all was right in the world (well, some of it – there was no universal calendar at this point, and pockets of the continent were still 10 days behind.)
This solved the “drift” issue of the Julian calendar. Equinoxes once again lined up with the position of the sun and Catholic holidays nestled comfortably near their traditional dates – a very big deal for the time.
What is the Relationship Between the Gregorian Calendar and Nature?
The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar, meaning it is based on seasonal changes and the sun’s positioning as the Earth revolves and rotates. More specifically, it’s a tropical solar calendar that is determined by the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.
A solar calendar is defined by the sky above us and our position in the universe – in other words, it’s dictated by nature and our place in it.
This does leave us out of sync with the moon, differing from the lunar calendar that influences much of the Eastern world to this day. A calendar of this nature is dictated by the phases of the moon. It’s also only roughly 354 days. And if the .075-day difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars is considered significant, then this discrepancy is absolutely extreme!
How the Gregorian Calendar and Nature Are Out of Step
Our current calendar is certainly accurate enough – we have consistent seasons and can anticipate each equinox. But while the Gregorian calendar heavily considers our place in nature, it isn’t truly connected to human nature.
With the hustle and bustle of modern society, it’s hard to live the way that nature might drive us. We no longer rise and set with the sun, nor do we consider the way the moon affects our bodies and minds.
Think about the way the moon influences the skies and seas – it conducts the rhythm of nature in its entirety, and yet our world moves entirely out of sync. We’re even beginning to affect how wildlife lives in relation to the moon as light pollution interrupts natural darkness patterns.
How Are We Influenced By Cycles in Nature?
As we’ve referenced, many believe that lunar phases influence the way we feel and think. There are actually observed changes in female physiology in correlation with the moon. Changes in one’s energy, appetite, and even fertility have been observed.
The quality of our sleep is also influenced by the moon. Studies suggest that humans may sleep less deeply and for shorter lengths of time during the full moon.
Many of us can anecdotally attest to seasonal depression during the fall and winter months. When days are shorter and we receive less sunlight, we become anxious, irritable, and even fully depressed.
Matching Our Gregorian Calendar With Nature
So how can we honor our natural calendars? Our society moves non-stop and we can’t exactly expect the world around us to change like the phases of the moon.
But when our Gregorian calendar and nature disagree, we can still find ways to be in tune with the rhythms of the natural world. We can:
Become Happier by Living a Nature-First Lifestyle
As far as calendars go, it is what it is – society ebbs and flows with human activities rather than with the tides, and it isn’t likely that we’ll start closing up shop at 4:00 p.m. in December even though we all, collectively, could use a little break.
But while the Gregorian calendar and nature aren’t perfectly compatible, we can take time in our day to recognize how our minds and bodies are being influenced by the sun, moon, and seasons. And we can take the time to reflect, recover, and respect our place in the center of it all. We can always take time to “a.c.e.” nature - that is to say admire, connect with, and explore the natural world.
a.c.e. Nature is all about living a nature-first life. To learn more about our values, and how these values can be woven into our day-to-day every day, visit us!.