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Year of the Dragon

NAME:_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

CLASS:_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Grade: 6th - 8th, 9th - 12th


Investigate the histories and methods of certain calendars used by different people over the world. Goals of the class include:
1. Understanding the bases--religious beliefs, solar and lunar systems-- for several existing calendars
2. Understanding why the world uses a standard calendar, the Gregorian calendar
3. Discovering when certain cultures celebrate the New Year, and how to calculate that year by the Gregorian calendar

Central Themes:

A calendar is a system of counting time. As indispensable as they may be, calendars seem to be taken for granted. How much do you know about the calendar you use? What is its history? Who created it? Do you know? What about other calendars used by other cultures? What year do their calendars say it is? When will they celebrate the New Year? Cultures' concepts of time, their calendrical histories, and traditions surrounding their calendar can often reveal interesting aspects about that culture.

The following descriptions are of four of the mahor calendars used today. They included the Gregorian, Hebrew, Islamic, and Chinese calendars.

Gregorian Calendar

The calendar that most of the world uses (and that we will be celebrating in the year 2000) is called the Gregorian calendar. The calendar is believed to be based on the birth of Jesus Christ, and was created by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 A.D. Pope Gregory actually created his calendar in an effort to correct the Julian calendar, so that it corresponded more closely to the solar year. The Julian calendar was created by Julius Caesar around 46B.C. and was approximately 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year. The Gregorian calendar, however, is approximately 26 seconds longer than the solar year. The Gregorian calendar serves as the world standard, mainly for reasons of efficiency and clarity. As the world becomes more closely connected through technological advances, a standard calendar becomes even more important.

Other Calendars

The Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and is usually 12 months long (sometimes 13 months). It was also based on an estimation of the world's creation: approximately 3,760 years and 3 months before the beginning of the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, the Gregorian year 2,000 A.D. will be 3,760 + 2,000, or the year 5,761 by the Hebrew calendar.

The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and the flight of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, from the city of Mecca to Medina which took place in 622 A.D. Therefore, the year 2,000 A.D. by the Gregorian calendar will be the year 1,378 by the Islamic calendar (2,000 - 622). The Islamic calendar counts 354 days in the year (shorter than the solar year by two days) and divides time into cycles of 30 years long.

The Chinese calendar is also based on the lunar cycle, and usually spans 12 months. The calendar was supposedly invented by Emperor Huangdi in 2637 B.C. The year 2000 A.D. will be 4,637 by the Chinese calendar. The Chinese calendar breaks time down into cycles of 60 years. The Gregorian year 2,000 will be the 17th year of the 78th cycle in the Chinese calendar. The years in these 60-year cycles are further broken into repeating 12-year cycles by animal name. These 12 animals are the: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The Gregorian year 2,000 A.D. is the year of the Dragon.



1. Download the
WORLD CALENDAR CHART to fill out. Use the information in the above descriptions, and research with the Helpful Links.

2. Construct a creative pictorial representation of the cyclical Chinese calendar and its animals. Use drawings, collage, sculpture, etc. in your representation.

3. Research one of the following foreign culture's New Year celebration, and prepare a presentation for class: The Chinese New Year, the Iranian New Year of Nowrooz, the Vietnamese New Year of Tet, or another foreign culture. Describe the calendrical reasoning behind the timing of the celebration, as well as: the people's traditions, superstitions, and histories behind the New Year celebration.

therewewere CONSIDER THIS: Some cultures do not celebrate the New Year on January 1st. Several of the therewewere writers spent their Year 2000 celebration in foreign cultures. Read their articles about their New Year celebrations, and find out what it was like celebrating the New Year in their respective cultures.


Helpful Links:


Teachers, enter your password to see the ANSWER KEY:

Lesson designed by Erin Edwards, December 19, 1999.

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