As nice as it would be, the world doesn’t have one universal way to tell time. Each month has a different name depending on the country, some religions use the moon while others use the sun, and Ethiopia is even 7 years behind America!

It can be confusing to keep up with the many calendars of the world, but that’s where this guide comes in handy. You’ll find a breakdown of every single type, and learn a few facts about calendar history along the way!

How Many Calendars Are There?

There are over 40 different calendars used around the world. Many countries and religions have their own calendar to track the days, months, and years. Here are the 3 main types of calendars:

1. Lunar

A lunar calendar tracks time using the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases. It measures the time between one new moon to the next.

2. Solar

A solar calendar is based on a solar year, which is the time it takes for Earth to rotate around the sun. It measures the time between vernal equinoxes.

3. Lunisolar

A lunisolar calendar uses both the moon phases and the time of the solar year to track time.

Throughout history, each country and religion has used a lunar, solar, or lunisolar calendar. We’re basically all over the place when it comes to tracking time!

What is the Difference Between a Lunar and Solar Year?

A lunar year is based on the time it takes for the moon to go through each of its phases (new moon, half moon, and full moon). A solar year, on the other hand, is the time it takes for the Earth to complete one revolution around the sun.

Lunar Years vs. Solar Years:

Lunar Year:

  • 354 days
  • 12 months
  • Extra month every 3 years
  • Measured by time it takes for the moon to go through each of its phases: new moon, half moon, and full moon

Solar Year:

  • 365 days
  • 12 months
  • Extra day in February every 4 years
  • Measured by the time to takes Earth to complete one revolution around the sun

Most of the countries and religions around the world use solar years. The exception is the Hijiri and Jewish calendars, which both use the cycle of the moon.

The term “epact” is used to describe the 11 day difference in time between a lunar year and a solar year.

What Are the Different Calendars From Around the World?

Get your passport ready – it’s time to travel around the world to learn more about calendars! Each culture, from the west to the east, has a system of tracking time that was established thousands and thousands of years ago.

Ancient Calendars Of The World

Sumerian Calendar

Year: 3100 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunar

People in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) were the first to use a calendar. They formed days and months based on the first sighting of a full moon, but unlike the calendar we use today, they didn’t have any weeks! A year also had only 360 days.

Egyptian Calendar

Year: 2510 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunar

Egyptians used the night sky to track the passage of time. The star Sirius was particularly important as it would rise like clockwork the same time every season. It would also be next to the sun every 365 days, which helped the Egyptians know when a year had passed.

Roman Calendar

Year: 738 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunisolar

The Roman calendar has had quite the journey. The first one was introduced by King Romulus in 738 BC. This was eventually replaced by the Julian calendar. Finally, the Gregorian calendar was introduced and is now the most commonly used calendar in the world.

Mayan Calendar

Year: 500 BC     Type of Calendar: Solar

Many people believe that the Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012, but according to BBC News, this is “a big misunderstanding.” It turns out the Mayans tracked “A Great Cycle,” and December 21, 2012 just happened to be the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next.

Chinese Calendar

Year: 500 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunar

While the Chinese calendar is based on the first day of a new moon, and has leap months rather than days, it’s best known for being associated with the zodiac. Each month is associated with an animal. This includes: a rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, fowl, dog, or pig. The Chinese calendar is used in China as well as in Korea, Vietnam, and the Ryukyu Islands.

Babylonian Calendar

Year: 499 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunar

We have the Babylonian calendar to thank for the 7-day week. They tracked the time it took for the moon to transition between each of its phases. The week would start and end at the crescent moon.

Greek Calendar

Year: 400 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunisolar

One calendar wasn’t good enough in ancient Greece! They used 5 different calendars to keep track of the cycle of solar equinoxes and the cycle of the moon and stars. The most common was the Athenian calendar, also known as the Attic or Civil calendar.

Ethiopian Calendar

Year: 400 AD     Type of Calendar: Solar

Did you know that Ethiopia is technically 7 to 8 years behind? This is because they base their calendar on different Christian beliefs than the Gregorian calendar used by a majority of the world. The Ethiopian new year also takes place in spring rather than in the winter.

Persian Calendar

Year: 1000 – 1100     Type of Calendar: Solar

Back in the 11th century, people in Persia used the vernal equinox to track the start of a new year. This calendar has since been changed many times and is the calendar used today in Iran and Afghanistan.

Aztec Calendar

Year: 1500 – 1521     Type of Calendar: Solar

The Aztec calendar wasn’t the typical wall calendar we use today. It was actually a stone that was considered sacred to people in central Mexico. The stone was carved with a ton of different mythological and astrological figures including the sun god, Tonatiuh.

Calendars Based on Religions

Hindu Calendar

Year: 1000 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunisolar

The Hindu (Panchanga) calendar has been used in India for thousands and thousands of years. It’s very similar to the calendar we use in America, but there are only 354 days instead of 365. This calendar marks religious holidays in the Hindu faith such as Diwali, Navrati, and Holi, also known as the festival of colors.

Buddhist Calendar

Year: 544 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunisolar

There are 7 countries in Southeast Asia that use the Buddhist calendar: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore. This calendar is derived from the Hindu calendar and is broken into 12 months with 29 or 30 days. It’s used to keep track of important religious observations.

Jewish Calendar

Year: 70 BC     Type of Calendar: Lunar

The Hebrew or Jewish calendar is still used in Israel today. Like other religious calendars, it’s used to denote sacred holidays and other important dates. It also provides a time frame for agriculture, so crops like wheat, corn, avocados, and mangoes can be grown in the appropriate seasons.

Islamic/Muslim (Hijiri) Calendar

Year: 622 AD     Type of Calendar: Lunar

Those of Islamic or Muslim faith use the Hijiri calendar to track time. It is similar to the Gregorian calendar since it has 12 months, only these are broken into sacred months and non-sacred months. There are also no leap months or days to account for the difference in length of a solar year.

Catholic (Gregorian) Calendar

Year: 1582     Type of Calendar: Solar

Pope Gregory XIII in Rome wasn’t a huge fan of the Julian calendar, so in order to spread Catholic ideas, he introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Surprisingly, his main motivation was to make sure that everyone was celebrating Easter on the correct day. Now the Gregorian calendar is used by a majority of the countries all over the world.

Christian Calendar

Year: 1582     Type of Calendar: Solar

Also known as a liturgical or ecclesiastical calendar, the Christian calendar is used to commemorate certain religious days and seasons. Christmas is celebrated for 12 days instead of one, which is why we get the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

What Are the Best Calendars to Use?

You can use many different types of calendars to keep track of appointments, birthdays, and other important dates. Choose the best calendars to keep up with your particular schedule. This may include:

  • Planners
  • Wall calendars
  • Desktop calendars
  • Digital calendars
  • Magnetic calendars
  • Printable calendars
  • Dry erase calendars
  • Photo calendars
  • Coloring calendars
  • Advent calendars
  • Promotional calendars

Planners

If you want a portable paper calendar, you can’t go wrong with a planner! There are a ton of stylish options out there, and many of them are small enough to fit in your bag or pocket.

Wall Calendars

Hang up a wall calendar at home and at the office. There are a ton of fun themes you can choose from like cute puppies, different landscapes, cool cars, or screenshots from your favorite movie.

Desktop Calendars

Those who spend a lot of time writing, typing, or working on projects would benefit from using a desktop calendar. Your schedule can be right underneath your keyboard and mouse. Take a peek every morning after you’ve made your coffee!

Digital Calendars

70% of adults rely on the digital calendar that’s built into their phones. They may also use calendar apps, Apple calendar, or Google calendar to keep track of dates. Phone calendars are handy since you can set alerts that notify you about upcoming events.

Magnetic Calendars

Do you spend a lot of time in the fridge? Stick a magnetic calendar on the door. It will be easy to remember to look at it every day since it’s in the kitchen.

Printable Calendars

Let’s say you’re part of a chamber of commerce, and you want to hang up a new calendar every month. Download printable calendars that you can pin onto a bulletin board. Use it to write upcoming luncheons, networking events, and other important dates for all of your members to view at their leisure.

Dry Erase Calendars

Go green and waste less paper by investing in a dry erase calendar. All you have to do is use dry erase markers, and wipe it clean when it’s to write something new. You can use this kind of calendar year after year, which saves you money in the long run.

Photo Calendars

Your awkward family photos can last for an entire year! Choose your favorite pics, and try to use one that makes sense for each month, such as your kids playing in the snow for January, gardening for April, and a family dinner for November. Photo calendars make particularly great gifts for grandparents!

Coloring Calendars

Grab colored pencils and crayons, and get to work on a coloring calendar. These calendars are a great way to show off your creativity since you can customize one that’s unique to you! This would also be a fun project to do at the beginning of the year at your school or daycare.

Advent Calendars

Christmas can’t come soon enough! Track every day until the holiday by using an advent calendar. The best part is you get to eat a new tasty chocolate or treat, or unwrap some other surprise every single day.

Promotional Calendars

Business owners can use promotional calendars to advertise. Send them out via direct mail, hand them out as freebies at a trade show, or sell them in your store’s gift shop. The more creative and fun the calendars are, the better!

What Should I Use a Calendar For?

You should use a calendar for important dates you don’t want to forget. As long as you remember to look at the calendar, you’ll feel more organized and prepared for the week ahead.

Stay on schedule this year! These are all the things that you should put on your calendar.

Holidays

There are 10 federal holidays in the United States alone, and that’s not even counting other notable dates like Mother’s Day, Halloween, and Valentine’s Day. Circle these dates on your calendar with a colorful pen so you remember to get a gift, prepare a meal, or buy a bunch of candy.

Birthdays

An article in The New York Post found that as many as 35% of people have had their significant other forget their birthday. This doesn’t feel good for anyone involved, so write birthdays on a calendar and you won’t have to worry about this serious party foul!

Special Occasions

Do you have a high school graduation, family reunion, party, or wedding coming up? Mark it on your calendar! Invitations can get lost in a pile of bills and other mail, so having the event written down will help you better remember.

Concerts & Plays

Sometimes we have to buy tickets to a concert, music festival, or Broadway show months in advance. You might also need to book a hotel or flight for the show. It helps to write the event on your calendar so you have time to iron out all the details.

Appointments

According to Everyday Health, new patients may have to wait 18 days before they can make an appointment. Sometimes it even takes weeks or months to get in to see a doctor or dentist! Be sure you don’t overlook that future appointment by jotting it down on your calendar. You can also write down other appointments like pedicures, massages, and haircuts.

Meetings

No matter how many Post-it Notes you use, it can be easy to overlook a meeting at work. Write it down in your calendar as soon as possible. You can then be prepared with good notes and any presentations you need to create.

Due Dates

Whether you write freelance articles for a magazine, need to pay your bills, want to return library books on time, or are a student with a ton of essays to complete, you should use a calendar to keep up with all your due dates. It could help you stop procrastinating if you know the deadline is right around the corner.

Expiration Dates

You should know when your credit cards or driver’s license need to be renewed. If you see the date on your calendar, you can be proactive and call the bank or DMV before it’s too late. You can also use a calendar for other expiration dates like warranties, cable contracts, and even when the milk expires!

Jury Duty & Voting Dates

If you have some kind of obligation coming up, like jury duty, court, or voting, it’s not a bad idea to write it down on a calendar. Now you don’t have to worry about missing out on anything important.

Auto Care

You’re supposed to get an oil change every 3 months and rotate your tires every 6 months. These are easy tasks to overlook, so do yourself a favor, and put them on your calendar so you don’t forget. Your car will thank you!

Classes

It can be a geography class you’re taking at a community college or a new yoga class you want to try. Either way, you should keep track of all of your classes by writing them down on a calendar. Just make sure to wake up when you hear the alarm!

Practices & Games

Maybe you play on a weekly co-ed softball team or your kids play basketball or soccer. Keep up with practices and games by jotting them down on a calendar. You’ll never let the team down by not showing up!

Meal Prep

Cooking after work can seem like a daunting task, which is why 60% of adults in the United States order delivery or takeout at least once a week. You’ll eat healthier and have more energy if you create a weekly meal calendar. Dedicate some time on a Sunday, jot down meals for each day, and do all your cooking ahead of time.

Vacations

Calendars don’t have to be all business! Get excited about an upcoming trip by putting it in your calendar. You can then count down the days until it’s finally time to go on your vacation!

Why Should I Use a Calendar?

You should use a calendar because it keeps you on schedule, reduces anxiety, and ultimately makes your life easier. As long as you actually use the calendar, you’ll notice that your day-to-day is more productive.

A calendar can help with all of the following:

Increasing Productivity

Do you struggle to keep up with your workload? Get into the habit of maintaining and using a calendar. You won’t overlook due dates, meetings, and other important tasks.

Staying Organized

Everyone knows at least one person who always seems frazzled. That person likely needs to start using a calendar, whether it’s a pocket planner or the one on their phone. This simple act can make all the difference in keeping you more organized.

Improving Relationships

Your grandma, husband, or best friend would be devastated if you forgot their birthday. A calendar helps you show up to events that matter the most to the people you love. Plus, you’ll have more time to look for the perfect gift!

Time Management

It’s important to know how much is on your plate before you agree to any other commitments. That’s the beauty of a calendar! Everything you have going on is all right there, so you can say “no” to things that don’t fit into your schedule.

Easing Stress & Anxiety

Feeling rushed, late, or in the dark can cause anyone to feel stressed out. This anxiety can be significantly reduced if you start using a calendar. You won’t forget the things that matter, and your future self will be more at ease as a result.

Keeping Up With Health & Wellness

Ultimately, a little reminder can be all it takes to take better care of yourself. You can use a calendar to write down healthy meals for the week, doctor’s and dentist appointments, or an upcoming yoga class that you want to try. Some people even use a calendar to record “me” time.

Achieving Your Goals

A study published in Forbes found that people who write down their goals are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to accomplish them. Give yourself a deadline, write it in your calendar, and stick to it. Your dreams may come true!

Seeking Out New Experiences

Maybe you stumbled upon a cool food festival you want to check out, or there’s a new movie coming out that you can’t wait to see. Jot these things down a calendar so you can remember.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Wouldn’t you be sad if you missed out on a fun party simply because you forgot about it? You’d have all sorts of regrets while looking at the social media pics! Avoid that “FOMO” feeling by using a calendar.


The Bottom Line

Some people use the Gregorian calendar, while others rely on the Ethiopian calendar. Some use a Jewish calendar, while others swear by the Hijiri calendar. No matter what, we can all get a ton of use from a calendar. Run out and get one that you use every day. You’ll be happy to have a way to stay right on schedule!

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About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.