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Coptic calendar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Gregorian calendar 10 June 2024
Coptic calendar 3 Paoni 1740

The Coptic calendar, also called the Alexandrian calendar, is a liturgical calendar used by the Coptic Orthodox Church and also used by the farming populace in Egypt. It was used for fiscal purposes in Egypt until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar on 11 September 1875 (1st Thout 1592 AM).[1] This calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar. To avoid the calendar creep of the latter (which contained only 365 days each year, year after year, so that the seasons shifted about one day every four years), a reform of the ancient Egyptian calendar was introduced at the time of Ptolemy III (Decree of Canopus, in 238 BC) which consisted of adding an extra day every fourth year. However, this reform was opposed by the Egyptian priests, and the reform was not adopted until 25 BC, when the Roman Emperor Augustus imposed the Decree upon Egypt as its official calendar (although initially, namely between 25 BC and AD 5, it was unsynchronised with the original implementation of the Julian calendar which was erroneously intercalating leap days every third year due to a misinterpretation of the leap year rule so as to apply inclusive counting).[2] To distinguish it from the Ancient Egyptian calendar, which remained in use by some astronomers until medieval times, this reformed calendar is known as the Coptic or Alexandrian calendar. Its years and months coincide with those of the Ethiopian calendar but have different numbers and names.[3]

Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the Coptic calendar does not skip leap years three times every 400 years, and therefore it stays synchronised with the Julian calendar over a four-year leap year cycle.[4] [5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Arts@Graham: Measuring Time - The Ancient Egyptian Invention of the Clock
  • Coptic: The Final Ancient Egyptian Language


Coptic year

The Coptic year is the extension of the ancient Egyptian civil year, retaining its subdivision into the three seasons, four months each. The three seasons are commemorated by special prayers in the Coptic Liturgy. This calendar is still in use all over Egypt by farmers to keep track of the various agricultural seasons.[6]

The Coptic calendar has 13 months, 12 of 30 days each and one at the end of the year of five days (six days in leap years). The Coptic Leap Year follows the same rules as the Julian Calendar so that the extra month always has six days in the year before a Julian Leap Year.[7]

The year starts on the Feast of Neyrouz, the first day of the month of Thout, the first month of the Egyptian year. For 1900 to 2099 it coincides with the Gregorian Calendar's 11 September, or 12 September before a leap year, but for any year, it coincides with the Julian Calendar's 29 August, or 30 August before a leap year. Coptic years are counted from 284 AD, the year Diocletian became Roman Emperor, whose reign was marked by tortures and mass executions of Christians, especially in Egypt.[7] Hence, the Coptic year is identified by the abbreviation A.M. (for Anno Martyrum or "in the Year of the Martyrs"). The first day of year I of the Coptic era was 29 August 284 in the Julian calendar. Note that the abbreviation A.M. is also used for unrelated calendar eras (such as the Freemasonic and Jewish calendar epochs) which start at the putative creation of the world; it then stands for Anno Mundi.

Easter is reckoned by the Julian Calendar in combination with the uncorrected repetition of the 19-year Metonic cycle.[8]

To obtain the Coptic year number, subtract from the Julian year number either 283 (before the Julian new year) or 284 (after it).

Date of Christmas

Coptic Christmas is observed on what the Julian Calendar labels 25 December, a date that currently corresponds with 7 January on the more widely used Gregorian Calendar (which is also when Christmas is observed in many Eastern Orthodox countries such as Russia). The 25 December Nativity of Christ was alleged very early by Hippolytus of Rome (170–236) in his Commentary on Daniel 4:23: "The first coming of our Lord, that in the flesh, in which he was born at Bethlehem, took place eight days before the calends of January, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus, 5500 years from Adam." [note 1] "Another early source is Theophilus Bishop of Caesarea (115–181): "We ought to celebrate the birth-day of our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen."[10][note 2] However, it was not until 367 that 25 December began to be universally accepted. Before that, the Eastern Church had kept 6 January as the Nativity under the name "Epiphany." John Chrysostom, in a sermon preached in Antioch in 387, relates how the correct date of the Nativity was brought to the East ten years earlier.[11] Dionysius of Alexandria emphatically quoted mystical justifications for this very choice. 25 March was considered to be the anniversary of Creation itself. It was the first day of the year in the medieval Julian, or Old Style, calendar and the nominal vernal equinox (it had been the actual equinox at the time of the Decree of Canopus in terms of the Julian calendar which adopted it without correction when originally designed). Considering that Jesus was thought to have been conceived on New Year's Day of the Old Style calendar, 25 March was recognised as the Feast of the Annunciation which had to be followed, nine months later, by the celebration of the birth of Christ, Christmas, on 25 December.

There may have been more practical considerations for choosing 25 December. The choice would help substitute a major Christian holiday for the popular Pagan celebrations surrounding the Winter Solstice (Roman Sol Sticia, the three-day stasis when the sun would rise consecutively in its southernmost point before heading north, 21, 22 and 23 December. In AD 274, Emperor Aurelian had declared a civil holiday on 25 December (the "Festival of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun") to celebrate the deity Sol Invictus. Finally, joyous festivals are needed at that time of year to fight the natural gloom of the season (in the Northern Hemisphere).[12]

Until the 16th century, 25 December coincided with 29 Koiak of the Coptic calendar. However, upon the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, 25 December shifted 10 days earlier in comparison with the Julian and Coptic calendars. Furthermore, the Gregorian calendar drops 3 leap days every 400 years to closely approximate the length of a solar year. As a result, the Coptic Christmas advances a day each time the Gregorian calendar drops a leap day (years AD 1700, 1800, and 1900).[13] This is the reason why Old-Calendarists (using the Julian and Coptic calendars) presently celebrate Christmas on 7 January, 13 days after the New-Calendarists (using the Gregorian calendar), who celebrate Christmas on 25 December. From AD 2101, the Coptic Christmas will be on the Gregorian date of 8 January.

Date of Easter

The First Council of Nicaea (325) sent a letter to the Church of Alexandria stating "all our brethren in the East who formerly followed the custom of the Jews are henceforth to celebrate the said most sacred feast of Easter at the same time with the Romans and yourselves and all those who have observed Easter from the beginning."[14]

At the Council of Nicaea, it became one of the duties of the patriarch of Alexandria to determine the dates of the Easter and to announce it to the other Christian churches.[15] This duty fell on this officiate because of the erudition at Alexandria he could draw on. The rules to determine this are complex, but Easter is the first Sunday after a full moon occurring after the northern vernal equinox, which falls on or after 21 March in Alexandria. When Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, the northern vernal equinox was nominally on 25 March which was abandoned shortly after Nicaea. The reason for the observed discrepancy was all but ignored (the actual tropical year is not quite equal to the Julian year of 36514 days, so the date of the equinox keeps creeping back in the Julian calendar).

Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, there are different dates for holidays. In recent years there have been multiple attempts to unify these dates. Some people are skeptical about the success of these attempts. Eastern Orthodox use the Julian calendar while Catholics use the Gregorian calendar. Pope Tawadros, the Coptic pope, and Pope Francis, the Catholic pope, agreed to the proposal to celebrate Easter on the same day. Pope Tawadros's suggested to celebrate Easter on the second Sunday of April.[16]

Coptic months

The following table refers to dates for Coptic years not containing 29 February. Such years are preceded by a Coptic leap day at the end of the preceding year. This causes dates to move one day later in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars from the Coptic New Year's Day until the leap day of the Julian or Gregorian Calendar respectively.

No. Name Ethiopian calendar Julian calendar dates Gregorian calendar dates (1900–2099) Season Coptic name origin[17][18]
Trans­literation Arabic[19]
[clarification neededdiscuss]
1 Ⲑⲱⲟⲩⲧ Ⲑⲟⲟⲩⲧ Thout توت Tūt Mäskäräm (መስከረም) 29 August – 27 September 11 September – 10 October Akhet (Inundation) ḏḥwty: Thoth, god of Wisdom and Science
2 Ⲡⲁⲟⲡⲓ Ⲡⲁⲱⲡⲉ Paopi بابه Bābah Ṭəqəmt(i) (ጥቅምት) 28 September – 27 October 11 October – 9 November pꜣ-n-jpt: Opet Festival
3 Ⲁⲑⲱⲣ Ϩⲁⲑⲱⲣ Hathor هاتور Hātūr Ḫədar (ኅዳር) 28 October – 26 November 10 November – 9 December Ḥwt-ḥr: Hathor, goddess of beauty and love (the land is lush and green)
4 Ⲭⲟⲓⲁⲕ Ⲕⲟⲓⲁϩⲕ Koiak كياك Kyak Taḫśaś ( ታኅሣሥ) 27 November – 26 December 10 December – 8 January kꜣ-ḥr-kꜣ: "spirit upon spirit," the name of a festival
5 Ⲧⲱⲃⲓ Ⲧⲱⲃⲉ Tobi طوبه Ṭūbah Ṭərr(i) (ጥር) 27 December – 25 January 9 January – 7 February Proyet, Peret, Poret (Growth) tꜣ-ꜥꜣbt: "The offering"
6 Ⲙⲉϣⲓⲣ Ⲙϣⲓⲣ Meshir أمشير ʾAmshīr Yäkatit (Tn. Läkatit) (የካቲት) 26 January – 24 February 8 February – 9 March mḫjr: The name of a festival, perhaps identical with a type of basket used in that festival
7 Ⲡⲁⲣⲉⲙϩⲁⲧ Ⲡⲁⲣⲙϩⲟⲧⲡ Paremhat برمهات Baramhāt Mägabit (መጋቢት) 25 February – 26 March 10 March – 8 April pꜣ-n-jmnḥtp: "Festival of Amenhotep"
8 Ⲫⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲑⲓ Ⲡⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲧⲉ Parmouti برموده Baramūdah Miyazya (ሚያዝያ) 27 March – 25 April 9 April – 8 May pꜣ-n-Rnnwtt: "Festival of harvest goddess Renenutet"
9 Ⲡⲁϣⲟⲛⲥ Ⲡⲁϣⲟⲛⲥ Pashons بشنس Bashans Gənbo (t) (ግንቦት) 26 April – 25 May 9 May – 7 June Shomu or Shemu (Harvest) pꜣ-n-ḫnsw "Festival of Khonsu"
10 Ⲡⲁⲱⲛⲓ Ⲡⲁⲱⲛⲉ Paoni بأونه Baʾūnah Säne (ሰኔ) 26 May – 24 June 8 June – 7 July pꜣ-n-jnt: valley festival
11 Ⲉⲡⲓⲡ Ⲉⲡⲏⲡ Epip أبيب ʾAbīb Ḥamle (ሐምሌ) 25 June – 24 July 8 July – 6 August jpjp: meaning unknown
12 Ⲙⲉⲥⲱⲣⲓ Ⲙⲉⲥⲱⲣⲏ Mesori مسرا Mesra Nähase (ነሐሴ) 25 July – 23 August 7 August – 5 September mswt rꜥ: birth of Ra
13 Ⲡⲓⲕⲟⲩϫⲓ ⲛ̀ⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ Ⲉⲡⲁⲅⲟⲙⲉⲛⲁⲓ[20] Pi Kogi Enavot نسيئ Nasīʾ Ṗagʷəmen/Ṗagume (ጳጐሜን/ጳጉሜ) 24 August – 28 August 6–10 September Bohairic: The Little Month;

Sahidic: Greek ἐπαγόμεναι < ἐπαγωγή < ἐπαγειν < ἐπι + ἄγειν: to bring in


  • Wolfgang Kosack: Der koptische Heiligenkalender. The Calendar of the Coptic Holies. Deutsch – Koptisch – Arabisch nach den besten Quellen neu bearbeitet und vollständig herausgegeben mit Index Sanctorum koptischer Heiliger, Index der Namen auf Koptisch, Koptische Patriarchenliste, Geografische Liste. Christoph Brunner, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-9524018-4-2.

See also


  1. ^ Correction: the actual quote from Hippolytus is "For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year."[9] The insertion of "eight days..." is from "Chronography of 354" and the insertion of the "forty-second year" is from Eusebius.
  2. ^ Another correction: Theophilus of Caesarea only said the following: "We would have you know, too, that in Alexandria also they observe the festival on the same day as ourselves. For the Paschal letters are sent from us to them, and from them to us: so that we observe the holy day in unison and together." No mention of Dec. 25th.


  1. ^ United States Congressional Serial Set. Vol. 1673. Washington: Government Printing Office. 1876. p. 1348. Archived from the original on 2022-06-12. Retrieved 2022-06-12.
  2. ^ Nabil, Michael. A Brief History of Patriarchs Coptic Church. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. p. 7. Archived from the original on 2022-09-30. Retrieved 2022-09-13.
  3. ^ Tamrat, Tadesse (2008). "Ethiopian Calendar & Millennia Highlights". International Journal of Ethiopian Studies. 3 (2): 177–88. JSTOR 27828897. Archived from the original on 13 September 2022. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  4. ^ According to "Conversion of Coptic and Julian dates". Universität Zürich. Archived from the original on 2007-12-27. Coptic dates corresponding to Julian dates separated by multiples of four years, or multiples of 100 years, all give the same day and month.
  5. ^ Fr. John Ramzy. "The Glorious Feast of Nativity: 7 January? 29 Kiahk? 25 December?". Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States. Archived from the original on 2002-06-20. States that Christmas has always been celebrated on 29 Kiahk in the Coptic calendar, and that this is equivalent to 25 December in the Julian calendar.
  6. ^ Naguib, Saphinaz-Amal (2008). "Survivals of Pharaonic Religious Practices in Contemporary Coptic Christianity". UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. Archived from the original on 20 September 2022. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  7. ^ a b Fr Tadros Y Malaty (1988). The Coptic Calendar and Church of Alexandria (Report). The Monastery of St. Macarius Press, The Desert of Scete. Archived from the original on 13 September 2022. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  8. ^ Vidro, Nadia (2021). Muslim and Christian calendars in Jewish calendar booklets: TS K2. 33 (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-09-13. Retrieved 2022-09-13. The Coptic date of Easter is determined by a calculation based on the Alexandrian 19-year cycle, which synchronises the lunar months with the solar years of the Coptic calendar.
  9. ^ Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol. 5. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. p. 446. Archived from the original on 2022-03-02. Retrieved 2022-03-02.
  10. ^ Magdeburgenses, Cent. 2. c. 6. Hospinian, de origine Festorum Christianorum
  11. ^ Maguire, Revd Andrew. "John Chrysostom - Homily on the Date of Christmas, sections 1 and 2". Archived from the original on 13 September 2022. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  12. ^ Bishop Jacob Bar-Salabi (cited in Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, Ramsay MacMullen. Yale:1997, p. 155)
  13. ^ "Introduction to Calendars". United States Naval Observatory. Archived from the original on 2022-06-17. Retrieved 2022-09-30.
  14. ^ Schaff, Philip; Wace, Henry, eds. (1986). The Synodal Letter. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Second Series. Vol. 14, The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdmans Pub Co. (published 1890). pp. 112–114. ISBN 0-8028-8129-7. Archived from the original on 2021-01-17. Retrieved 2020-07-05. ( Archived 2020-09-28 at the Wayback Machine)
  15. ^ Declercq, Georges (2000). Anno Domini: The Origins of the Christian Era. Isd. ISBN 978-2-503-51050-7.
  16. ^ "Popes Francis and Tawadros agree one Easter for all". Watani. 2015-10-25. Retrieved 2023-05-27.
  17. ^ Černý, Jaroslav (1976). Coptic Etymological Dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-07228-1.
  18. ^ Vycichl, Werner (1983). Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue Copte. Leuven: Peeters. ISBN 978-2-8017-0197-3.
  19. ^ Hinds, Martin; Badawi, El-Said (1986). A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic: Arabic-English. Beirut: Librairie du Liban. ISBN 978-0-8288-0434-9.
  20. ^ Crum, W.E. (1939). A Coptic Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 54.

External links

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