MARTY RUSSELL: It's a new year, how about a date?

By Marty Russell

Ah, the first column of a new year, so full of promise and bad puns. We tend to see the beginning of the year as a chance to start anew, making all those resolutions to better ourselves somehow, make a fresh start and accomplish something meaningful in life. Then, about the time the Super Bowl rolls around, we shrug it all off with the rationalization that, hey, Jan. 1 is just another date on the calendar and doesn’t really have any magical powers or hold any cosmic significance.
Which is true, of course, but you have to start the new year somewhere. It takes the Earth 365.2422 days to complete one orbit around the sun and so the Gregorian calendar, in use since 1582, divides the year up into 12 months varying in length from 29 to 31 days each. The problem with that, according to some, is that certain days, such as holidays, never fall on the same day of the week year after year. It’s why a lot of folks were complaining this holiday season because Christmas and New Year’s fell on a weekend meaning they didn’t get a day off from work.
Now a Johns Hopkins University astronomer is proposing a change to the calendar. The good news is that, under the proposal by astrophysicist Richard Conn Henry, every calendar date would always fall on the same day of the week. The bad news? Christmas and New Year’s would always be on a Sunday.
Henry is proposing a change to a calendar where eight months of the year would have 30 days and every third month would have 31. Leap years would disappear, not to mention a lot of people’s birthdays. However, since that only adds up to 364 days, his proposed calendar would require that every five or six years, a full extra week would be added to the end of December.
Even with all the college football bowl games we have now, I’m not sure it would be enough to fill two weeks between Christmas and New Year’s every five or six years.
The Fourth of July, under Henry’s proposal, would always fall on a Wednesday and my birthday, July 15, would always be on a Sunday. Bummer, no celebrating at the bars.
Henry’s argument is that the new calendar would allow for consistency in planning, particularly for businesses such as knowing that you don’t have to lose a valuable workday just because it’s Christmas. Do I hear a, “Bah, humbug?”
But there’s a downside to Henry’s proposal. Currently every year has at least one Friday the 13th and the maximum number of Friday the 13ths possible in any year under the Gregorian calendar is three. Under the proposed calendar every year would be guaranteed to have four Friday the 13ths, one every three months.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at

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