Coptic calendar

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. This calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar. To avoid the calendar creep of the latter, a reform of the ancient Egyptian calendar was introduced at the time of Ptolemy III (Decree of Canopus, in 238 BC) which consisted of the intercalation of a sixth epagomenal 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 it was unsynchronized with the newly introduced Julian calendar which had erroneously been intercalating leap days every third year due to a misinterpration of the leap year rule so as to apply inclusive counting). 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 calendar. Its years and months coincide with those of the Ethiopian calendar but have different numbers and names.

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. The Coptic calendar has 13 months, 12 of 30 days each and one at the end of the year of 5 days in length, except in leap years when the month is 6 days. Today, and until 2099, the year starts on 11 September in the Gregorian Calendar or on the 12th in the year before (Julian) 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.

The Feast of Neyrouz marks the first day of the Coptic year. Ignorant of the Persian language for the most part, the Arabs confused the Egyptian new year's celebrations, which the Egyptians called the feast of Ni-Yarouou (the feast of the rivers), with the Persian feast of Nowruz.[1] The misnomer remains today, and the celebrations of the Egyptian new year on the first day of the month of Thout are known as the Neyrouz. Its celebration falls on the 1st day of the month of Thout, the first month of the Egyptian year, which for 1901 to 2098 usually coincides with 11 September, except before a Gregorian leap year when it is 12 September. Coptic years are counted from 284, the year Diocletian became Roman Emperor, whose reign was marked by tortures and mass executions of Christians, especially in Egypt. Hence, the Coptic year is identified by the abbreviation A.M. (for Anno Martyrum or "Year of the Martyrs"). The first day of the year I of the Coptic era was 29 August 284 in the Julian calendar. Note that A.M. abbreviation is also used for unrelated calendar eras (such as the Byzantine and Jewish calendar epochs) which start at the putative creation of the world; it then stands for Anno Mundi.

Every fourth Coptic year is a leap year without exception, as in the Julian calendar, so the above-mentioned new year dates apply only between 1900 and 2099 inclusive in the Gregorian Calendar. In the Julian Calendar, the new year is always 29 August, except before a Julian leap year when it is 30 August. Easter is reckoned by the Julian Calendar in the Old Calendarist way.

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 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." 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." (Magdeburgenses, Cent. 2. c. 6. Hospinian, de origine Festorum Christianorum). However, it was not until 367 that 25 December was begun 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. 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 calendar and the nominal vernal equinox (it had been the actual equinox at the time when the Julian calendar was originally designed). Considering that Jesus was thought to have been conceived on that date, 25 March was recognized 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. The celebrations began a full week prior to the religious observance and the drunken revelers were expectantly sobered and orgies exhausted by the festivals close, prompting the eve or vigil of the 24th/25th as an optimally moral and safe time for the Feast of Christ's Nativity). The religious competition was fierce. 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).

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). This is the reason why Old-Calendrists (using the Julian and Coptic calendars) presently celebrate Christmas on 7 January, 13 days after the New-Calendrists (using the Gregorian calendar), who celebrate Christmas on 25 December. From AD 2100, the Coptic Christmas will be on the Gregorian date of 8 January.

Date of Easter

According to Christian tradition, Jesus died at the ninth hour (that is, the canonical hour of nona—3:00 pm) of the first full day of Pesach, when that day fell on a Friday; and arose from the dead at or by the first (canonical) hour of the next Sunday. The day of Pesach (Pascha or Passover, 15 Nisan), is always at the first full moon following the northern vernal equinox. At the First Ecumenical Council, held in AD 325 at Nicaea, it was decided to celebrate Easter on the Sunday following the so-called Paschal Full Moon, as for the Christian church to differentiate itself from their Jewish counterparts.

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. 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, which was its nominal date at the time of the First Council of Nicaea. Shortly after Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, the northern vernal equinox was occurring on the nominal date of 25 March. This was abandoned shortly after Nicaea, but the reason for the observed discrepancy was all but ignored (the actual tropical year is not quite equal to the Julian year of 365​14 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.

Coptic months

The following table refers to dates for Coptic years not containing February 29. 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.

Coptic Months
No. Name Julian Calendar Dates Gregorian Calendar Dates (1900-2099) Season Name origin[2][3]
Bohairic Sahidic Coptic Arabic[4]
1 Ⲑⲱⲟⲩⲧ Ⲑⲟⲟⲩⲧ Thout توت Tūt August 29 - September 27 11 September – 10 October Akhet (Inundation) ḏḥwty: Thoth, god of Wisdom and Science
2 Ⲡⲁⲟⲡⲓ Ⲡⲁⲱⲡⲉ Paopi بابه Bāba September 28 - October 27 11 October – 9 November pꜣ-n-jpt: Opet Festival
3 Ⲁⲑⲱⲣ Ϩⲁⲑⲱⲣ Hathor هاتور Hātūr October 28 - November 26 10 November – 9 December Ḥwt-ḥr: Hathor, goddess of beauty and love (the land is lush and green)
4 Ⲭⲟⲓⲁⲕ Ⲕⲟⲓⲁϩⲕ Koiak كياك Kiyāk November 27 - December 26 10 December – 8 January kꜣ-ḥr-kꜣ: "spirit upon spirit," the name of a festival
5 Ⲧⲱⲃⲓ Ⲧⲱⲃⲉ Tobi طوبه Ṭūba December 27 - January 25 9 January – 7 February Proyet, Peret, Poret (Growth) tꜣ-ꜥꜣbt: "The offering"
6 Ⲙⲉϣⲓⲣ Ⲙϣⲓⲣ Meshir أمشير Amshīr January 26 - February 24 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 February 25 - March 26 10 March – 8 April pꜣ-n-jmnḥtp: "Festival of Amenhotep"
8 Ⲫⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲑⲓ Ⲡⲁⲣⲙⲟⲩⲧⲉ Parmouti برموده Baramūda March 27 - April 25 9 April – 8 May pꜣ-n-Rnnwtt: "Festival of harvest goddess Renenutet"
9 Ⲡⲁϣⲟⲛⲥ Ⲡⲁϣⲟⲛⲥ Pashons بشنس Bashans April 26 - May 25 9 May – 7 June Shomu or Shemu (Harvest) pꜣ-n-ḫnsw "Festival of Khonsu"
10 Ⲡⲁⲱⲛⲓ Ⲡⲁⲱⲛⲉ Paoni بؤنة Ba’ūnah May 26 - June 24 8 June – 7 July pꜣ-n-jnt: valley festival
11 Ⲉⲡⲓⲡ Ⲉⲡⲏⲡ Epip أبيب Abīb June 25 - July 24 8 July – 6 August jpjp: meaning unknown
12 Ⲙⲉⲥⲱⲣⲓ Ⲙⲉⲥⲱⲣⲏ Mesori مسرى Misrá July 25 - August 23 7 August – 5 September mswt rꜥ: birth of Ra
13 Ⲡⲓⲕⲟⲩϫⲓ ⲛ̀ⲁ̀ⲃⲟⲧ Ⲉⲡⲁⲅⲟⲙⲉⲛⲁⲓ[5] Pi Kogi Enavot نسيئ Nasī’ August 24 - August 28 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. ^ Egyptian Calendar of the Martyrs
  2. ^ Černý, Jaroslav (1976). Coptic Etymological Dictionary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-07228-1.
  3. ^ Vycichl, Werner (1983). Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue Copte. Leuven: Peeters. ISBN 978-2-8017-0197-3.
  4. ^ Hinds, Martin; Badawi, El-Said (1986). A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic: Arabic-English. Beirut: Librairie du Liban. ISBN 978-0828804349.
  5. ^ Crum, W.E. (1939). A Coptic Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 54.

External links


Epip (Coptic: Ⲉⲡⲓⲡ), also known as Epiphi (Greek: Ἐπιφί, Ephiphí) and Abib (Arabic: أبيب‎), is the eleventh month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lasts between July 8 and August 6 of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Epip is also the third month of the Season of Shemu (Harvest) in Ancient Egypt, where the Egyptians harvest their crops throughout the land.

Ethiopian calendar

The Ethiopian calendar (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ዘመን አቆጣጠር; yä'Ityoṗṗya zëmän aḳoṭaṭär) or Eritrean calendar is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical year for Christians in Eritrea and Ethiopia belonging to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, and Ethiopian-Eritrean Evangelicalism (Ethiopian-Eritrean Protestants in the diaspora usually use both the Ethiopian and Gregorian Calendars for liturgical purposes, by celebrating religious holidays twice). It is a solar calendar which in turn derives from the Egyptian calendar, but like the Julian calendar, it adds a leap day every four years without exception, and begins the year on August 29 or August 30 in the Julian calendar. A gap of 7–8 years between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars results from an alternative calculation in determining the date of the Annunciation.

Like the Coptic calendar, the Ethiopic calendar has 12 months of 30 days plus 5 or 6 epagomenal days, which comprise a thirteenth month. The Ethiopian months begin on the same days as those of the Coptic calendar, but their names are in Ge'ez. A 6th epagomenal day is added every 4 years, without exception, on August 29 of the Julian calendar, 6 months before the corresponding Julian leap day. Thus the first day of the Ethiopian year, 1 Mäskäräm, for years between 1900 and 2099 (inclusive), is usually September 11 (Gregorian). However, it falls on September 12 in years before the Gregorian leap year.

Hathor (month)

Hathor (Coptic: Ϩⲁⲑⲱⲣ, Hathōr), also known as Athyr (Greek: Ἀθύρ, Athýr) and Hatur (Arabic: هاتور‎), is the third month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lies between November 10 and December 9 of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Hathor is also the third month of the season of Akhet (Inundation) in Ancient Egypt, when the Nile floods historically covered the land of Egypt; they have not done so since the construction of the High Dam at Aswan.


Koiak (; Coptic: Ⲕⲟⲓⲁⲕ, [ˈkɔjak]), also known as Choiak (Greek: Χοιάκ, Khoiák) and Kiyahk (Coptic: Ⲕⲓⲁϩⲕ, Kiahk, [ˈkijahk]; Arabic: كياك‎ or كيهك), is the fourth month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lasts between 10 December and 8 January of the Gregorian calendar, or between 11 December and 9 January of the Gregorian calendar in Coptic calendar years immediately following a Coptic calendar leap year (which occur every four years, in Coptic calendar years immediately preceding those that are divisible by 4 to produce an integer; i.e., 1719, 1723, 1727, 1731, etc. are all examples of leap years in the Coptic calendar). The month of Koiak is also the fourth month of the Season of Akhet (Inundation) in Ancient Egypt, when the Nile floods historically covered the land. They have not done so since the construction of the High Dam at Aswan.


Meshir (Coptic: Ⲙⲉϣⲓⲣ), also known as Mechir (Greek: Μεχίρ, Mekhír) and Amshir (Arabic: أمشير‎), is the sixth month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lies between February 8 and March 9 of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Meshir is also the second month of the Season of Proyet (Growth and Emergence) in ancient Egypt, where the Nile floods recede and the crops start to grow throughout the land of Egypt.


Paoni (Coptic: Ⲡⲁⲱⲛⲓ, Paōni), also known as Payni (Greek: Παϋνί, Paüní) and Ba'unah (Arabic: بئونه‎, Ba'una), is the tenth month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lasts between June 8 and July 7 of the Gregorian calendar. Paoni is also the second month of the Season of Shemu (Harvest) in Ancient Egypt, where the Egyptians harvest their crops throughout the land.

Paoni 9 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

8 Paoni - Coptic calendar - 10 Paoni


Paopi (Coptic: Ⲡⲁⲱⲡⲉ, Paōpe), also known as Phaophi (Greek: Φαωφί, Phaōphí) and Babah (Arabic: بابه‎, Baba), is the second month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lasts between 11 October and 9 November of the Gregorian calendar, unless the previous Coptic year was a leap year. The month of Paopi is the second month of the Season of Akhet (Inundation) in Ancient Egypt, when the Nile floods inundated the land. (They have not done so since the construction of the High Dam at Aswan.)


Pashons (Coptic: Ⲡⲁϣⲟⲛⲥ, [paˈʃons]), also known as Pachon (Greek: Παχών, Pakhṓn) and Bachans (بشنس, Bashans), is the ninth month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lasts between May 9 and June 7 of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Pashons is also the first month of the Season of Shemu (Harvest) in Ancient Egypt, when the Egyptians harvest their crops throughout the land.

Pashons 10 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

9 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 11 Pashons

Pashons 11 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

10 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 12 Pashons

Pashons 13 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

12 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 14 Pashons

Pashons 14 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

13 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 15 Pashons

Pashons 15 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

14 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 16 Pashons

Pashons 3 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

2 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 4 Pashons

Pashons 6 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

5 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 7 Pashons

Pashons 9 (Coptic Orthodox liturgics)

8 Pashons - Coptic calendar - 10 Pashons


Thout (Coptic: Ⲑⲱⲟⲩⲧ, [tʰoːuːt]), also known as Thoth (Greek: Θωθ, Thōth) and Tut (Arabic: توت‎), is the first month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lies between 11 September and 10 October of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Thout is also the first month of the Season of Akhet (Inundation) in Ancient Egypt, when the Nile floods historically covered the land of Egypt; it has not done so since the construction of the High Dam at Aswan.

Tobi (month)

Tobi (Coptic: Ⲧⲱⲃⲓ, Tōbi), also known as Tybi (Greek: Τυβί, Tybí) and Tubah (Arabic: طوبه‎), is the fifth month of the ancient Egyptian and Coptic calendars. It lies between January 9 and February 7 of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Tobi is also the first month of the season of Proyet (Growth and Emergence) in Ancient Egypt, where the Nile floods recede and the crops start to grow throughout the land of Egypt.

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