Learning With: ‘What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World’s Calendars’

Learning With: ‘What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World’s Calendars’

Before reading the article:

What is a year? Why is it important to know when a year begins or ends? How would you explain the concept of a year to, say, a 5-year-old?

Now try to name as many holidays as you can that are fixed, or celebrated on the same day every year. Then try to name as many as you can that move around for any reason.

What questions do these exercises leave you with?

Now, read the article, “What Lunar New Year Reveals About the World’s Calendars,” and answer the following questions:

1. When is Lunar New Year? In which countries is it most commonly observed?

2. Why are calendars “ultimately a social contract, regardless of how scientifically accurate or sophisticated a calendar is,” according to Kevin Birth, an anthropology professor at Queens College?

3. What are some of the ways that calendars reflect the people and cultures that created them?

4. What is a solar year? What are the benefits and drawbacks of using a solar calendar? What is a lunisolar calendar?

5. When and how did the Gregorian calendar become the global standard?

6. The article concludes:

A Hijri calendar from the Gregorian year 2014 hangs in Dr. Birth’s office. On it, Christmas falls on 3 Rabi al-Awwal, the third day of the third month.

He loves the reminder that “holidays you think are stationary actually move, and those you think move are actually stationary.” It shows “how cultural these things are, rather than natural,” he said.

What does Dr. Birth’s statement mean? What information in this article supports his assertion?

Finally, tell us more about what you think:

— What did you learn from the article? Did anything surprise or intrigue you? Did the article change how you view calendars? Did it spur any memories of your own experiences with calendars?

— The author writes: “Each calendar reveals something about how the people who created it relate to the world around them while also preserving rich cultural identities and memories.” After reading the article, which calendar system do you prefer and why? Do you, your family or your community use any calendar besides the Gregorian calendar? If so, how does it express cultural identity or memories for you?

— How do you visualize the annual calendar? Describe or draw what, if anything, you see when you think about the months that make up a year, then read more to learn if you are a “calendar synaesthete.