The Germanic peoples had names for the months which varied by region and dialect, which were later replaced with local adaptations of the Roman month names. Records of Old English and Old High German month names date to the 8th and 9th centuries, respectively. Old Norse month names are attested from the 13th century. Like most pre-modern calendars, the reckoning used in early Germanic culture was likely lunisolar. As an example, the Runic calendar developed in medieval Sweden is lunisolar, fixing the beginning of the year at the first full moon after winter solstice.
As in all ancient calendars, the Germanic calendar before the adoption of the Julian one would have been lunisolar, the months corresponding to lunations. Tacitus in his Germania (ch. 11) writes that the Germanic peoples observed the lunar months.
The lunisolar calendar is reflected in the Germanic term *mēnōþ- "month" (Old English mōnaþ, Old Saxon mānuth, Old Norse mánaðr, and Old High German mānod, Gothic mēnōþs, being a derivation of the word for "moon", mēnô — which shares its ancestry with the Greek mene "moon", men "month", and Latin mensis "month".
Tacitus gives some indication of how the Germanic peoples of the first century reckoned the days. In contrast to Roman usage, they considered the day to begin at sunset, a system that in the Middle Ages came to be known as the "Florentine reckoning". The same system is also recorded for the Gauls in Caesar's Gallic Wars.
The concept of the week, on the other hand, was adopted from the Romans, from about the first century, the various Germanic languages having adopted the Greco-Roman system of naming of the days of the week after the classical planets, inserting loan translations for the names of the planets, substituting the names of Germanic gods in a process known as interpretatio germanica.
The month names do not coincide, thus it is not possible to postulate names of a Common Germanic stage, except possibly the name of a spring and a winter month, *austr- and *jehul-. The names of the seasons are Common Germanic, *sumaraz, *harbistaz, *wintruz, and *wēr- for "spring" in north Germanic, but in west Germanic the term *langatīnaz was used. The Common Germanic terms for day, month and year were *dagaz, *mēnōþs (moon) and *jērą. The latter two continue Proto-Indo-European *mḗh₁n̥s, *yeh₁r-, while *dagaz is a Germanic innovation from a root *dʰegʷʰ- meaning "to be hot, to burn".
A number of terms for measuring time can be reconstructed for the proto Germanic period.
|Time, Period, Interval||*tīdiz||tīd||tide||tiid||tijd||Tiet||Zeit||tíð||tíð||tid||tid||tid||tid|
|Time, Period, Hour||*tīmô||tīma||time||tími||tími||timme||time||time||time|
The main source of reference for Old English month names comes from the Venerable Bede. He recorded the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon month names in his Latin work known as De temporum ratione (De mensibus Anglorum), written in 725. This is the only testimony of a Germanic lunisolar system, with explicit mention of empirical intercalation, the intercalary month being inserted around midsummer.
Charlemagne (r. 768–814) recorded agricultural Old High German names for the Julian months. These remained in use, with regional variants and innovations, until the end of the medieval period in German-speaking Europe and they persisted in popular or dialectal use into the 19th century. They probably also influenced Fabre d'Eglantine when he named the months of the French Republican Calendar.
The only agreement between the Old English and the Old High German (Carolingian) month names is the naming of May as "Easter month". Both traditions have a "holy month", the name of September in the Old English system and of December in the Old High German one.
A separate tradition of month names developed in 10th-century Iceland, see below.
|Julian month||Old English||Old High German|
|January||Æfterra Gēola "After Yule", or "Second Yule"||Wintar-mánód|
|February||Sol-mōnaþ ('mud month,' Bede: "the month of cakes, which they offered in it to their gods." Either the cakes looked like they were made of mud due to their color and texture, or literally it was the month of mud due to wet English weather)||Hornung|
|March||Hrēþ-mōnaþ "Month of the Goddess Hrēþ" or "Month of Wildness"||Lenzin-mānod "spring month"|
|April||Easter-mōnaþ "Easter Month", "Month of the Goddess Ēostre"||Ōstar-mānod "Easter month"; see also Ostara|
|May||Þrimilce-mōnaþ "Month of Three Milkings"||Winni-mánód "pasture month"|
|June||Ærra Līþa "Before Midsummer", or "First Summer"||Brāh-mānod|
|—||Þrilīþa "Third (Mid)summer" (leap month)||—|
|July||Æftera Līþa "After Midsummer", "Second Summer"||Hewi-mānod "hay(making) month"|
|August||Weod-mōnaþ "Plant month"||Aran-mānod "harvest month"|
|September||Hālig-mōnaþ "Holy Month"||Witu-mānod "wood month"|
|October||Winterfylleth "Winter full moon", according to Bede "because winter began on the first full moon of that month [of October]."||Wīndume-mānod "vintage month"|
|November||Blōt-mōnaþ "Blót Month", "Month of Sacrifice"||Herbist-mānod "autumn month"|
|December||Ærra Gēola "Before Yule", or "First Yule"||Hailag-mānod "holy month"|
The Old High German month names introduced by Charlemagne persisted in regional usage and survive in German dialectal usage. The Latin month names were in predominant use throughout the medieval period, although the Summarium Heinrici, an 11th-century pedagogical compendium, in chapter II.15 (De temporibus et mensibus et annis) advocates the use of the German month names rather than the more widespread Latin ones.
In the late medieval to early modern period, dialectal or regional month names were adopted for the use in almanachs, and a number of variants or innovations developed in this context, comparable to the tradition of "Indian month names" which developed in American Farmers' Almanacs in the early 20th century. Some of the Farmers' Almanacs' "Indian month names" are in fact derived from continental tradition. The Old English month names fell out of use entirely, being revived only in a fictional context in the Shire calendar constructed by J. R. R. Tolkien for use in his The Lord of the Rings.
|Julian month||Old High German||German||Dutch||West Frisian|
|January||Wintar-mánód ("winter month")||Wintermonat||louwmaand ("tanning month")||Foarmoanne ("fore month")|
|Hornung||sprokkelmaand ("month of gathering"), schrikkelmaand ("bisextile month")||Sellemoanne ("filthy, unclean month")|
|Lenzmonat ("spring month"), Dörrmonat ("dry month")||lentemaand ("spring month")||Foarjiersmoanne ("spring month")|
|April||Ōstar-mānod ("Easter month")||Ostermonat ("Easter month")||grasmaand ("grass month" = French Republican Prairial)||Gersmoanne ("grass month")|
|May||Winni-mānod ("pasture month")||Wonnemonat ("month of joy")||wonnemaand ("month of joy"), bloeimaand ("flower month" = French Republican Floréal), Mariamaand ("Mary's month")||Blommemoanne ("flower month")|
|June||Brāh-mānod ("fallow month")||Brachmonat ("fallow month")||zomermaand ("summer month"), braammaand, wedemaand ("woad month"), wiedemaand ("weed month")||Simmermoanne ("summer month")|
|July||Hewi-mānod ("hay [making] month")||Heumonat ("hay [making] month")||vennemaand ("pasture month"), hooimaand ("hay month")||Heamoanne, haaimoanne ("hay [making] month")|
|August||Aran-mānod, MHG arn-mânôt
|Erntemonat ("harvest month")||oogstmaand ("harvest month" = French Republican Messidor; the word oogst "harvest" itself comes from Latin Augustus), koornmaand ("corn month")||Rispmoanne ("harvest month"), flieëmoanne ("flea month")|
|Herbstmonat ("autumn month")||herfstmaand ("autumn month"), gerstmaand ("barley month"), evenemaand ("oats month")||Hjerstmoanne ("autumn month")|
|Weinmonat, Weinmond ("vintage month"), Herbstmonat, Gilbhart ("yellowing")||wijnmaand ("wine month"), Wijnoogstmaand ("vintage month" = French Republican Vendémiaire), zaaimaand ("sowing month")||Wynmoanne ("wine month"), bitemoanne ("sugar beet month")|
|November||Herbist-mānod ("autumn month")||Wintermonat ("winter month"), Herbstmonat||slachtmaand ("slaughter month"), bloedmaand ("blood month"), nevelmaand, mistmaand ("fog month" = French Republican Brumaire), smeermaand ("month of pork feeding")||Slachtmoanne ("slaughter month")|
|December||Hailag-mānod ("holy month"), MHG heilmânôt||Christmonat ("Christ month"), Heiligmonat ("holy month")||wintermaand ("winter month"), midwintermaand ("Midwinter month"), sneeuwmaand ("snow month" = French Republican Nivôse), Kerstmismaand ("Christmas month"), Joelmaand ("Yule month"), wolfsmaand ("wolves' month"), donkere maand ("dark month")||Wintermoanne ("winter month"), Joelmoanne ("Yule month")|
A special case is the Icelandic calendar developed in the 10th century which, inspired by the Julian calendar, introduced a purely solar reckoning with a year having a fixed number of weeks (52 weeks or 364 days). This necessitated the introduction of "leap weeks" instead of Julian leap days.
The old Icelandic calendar is not in official use any more, but some Icelandic holidays and annual feasts are still calculated from it. It has 12 months, of 30 days broken down into two groups of six often termed "winter months" and "summer months". The calendar is peculiar in that each month always start on the same day of week. This was achieved by having 4 epagomenal days to bring the number of days up to 364 and then adding a sumarauki week in the middle of summer of some years. This was eventually done so as to ensure that the "summer season" begins on the Thursday between 9 and 15 April in the Julian calendar Hence Þorri always starts on a Friday sometime between 8 and 15 January of the Julian calendar, Góa always starts on a Sunday between 7 and 14 February of the Julian calendar.
Many of the months have also been used in Scandinavia, the Norwegian linguist Ivar Aasen wrote down the following months in his dictionary, coming in this order: Jolemåne-Torre-Gjø-Kvina, of which two are identical to Iceland, and one is similar. They have developed differently in different regions. Þorri is pronounced tærri, torre and similar, and can mean both the moon after Yule-month, or be a name for January or February.
April is the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, the fifth in the early Julian, the first of four months to have a length of 30 days, and the second of five months to have a length of less than 31 days.
April is commonly associated with the season of autumn in parts of the Southern Hemisphere, and spring in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, where it is the seasonal equivalent to October in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa.Blōtmōnaþ
Blōtmōnaþ (modern English: blót month) was the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of November.The name was recorded by the Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede in his treatise De temporum ratione (The Reckoning of Time), saying "Blod-monath is month of immolations, for it was in this month that the cattle which were to be slaughtered were dedicated to the gods.”An entry in the Menologium seu Calendarium Poeticum, an Anglo-Saxon poem about the months, explains that “this month is called Novembris in Latin, and in our language the month of sacrifice, because our forefathers, when they were heathens, always sacrificed in this month, that is, that they took and devoted to their idols the cattle which they wished to offer.”Chamavi
The Chamavi were a Germanic tribe of Roman imperial times whose name survived into the Early Middle Ages. They first appear under that name in the 1st century AD Germania of Tacitus as a Germanic tribe that lived to the north of the Lower Rhine. Their name probably survives in the region today called Hamaland, which is in the Gelderland province of the Netherlands, between the IJssel and Ems rivers.Christmas in Norway
Jul or jol ([jʉːɽ]) is the term used for the Christmas holiday season in Scandinavia and parts of Scotland. Originally, "jul" was the name of a month in the old Germanic calendar. The concept of "jul" as a period of time rather than a specific event prevailed in Scandinavia; in modern times, "Jul" is a period of time stretching from mid-November to mid-January, with Christmas and the week up to New Year as its highlight. The modern English yule and yuletide derive from this term.The term "Jul" is common throughout Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Scotland and the Faroe Islands.
Whereas the start of "jul" proper is announced by the chiming of church bells throughout the country in the afternoon of 24 December, it is more accurate to describe the season as an eight-week event. It consists of five phases: Advent, Julaften, Romjul, Nyttår, and The End of Christmas, very often with Epiphany, the thirteenth day of Christmas, as the final day of the season. From the original beginning on Christmas Day, the custom of Julebord has spread to the entire season and beyond, often beginning well in advance of December.
The modern day celebration is largely based on the Church year and has retained several pre-Reformation and pre-Christian elements.
The central event in Scandinavia is Christmas Eve (julaften), when the main Christmas meal is served and gifts are exchanged. This might be due to the old Germanic custom of counting time in nights, not days (e.g. "forthnight"), as it holds for other holidays like Midsummer Eve (Jonsok, lit. "Wake of St. John") and St. Olavs Mass (Olsok, lit. "Wake of St. Olav"), with the main celebration on the eve of the official Church day.Heathen holidays
In the modern Pagan new religious movement of Heathenry, various publications identify a number of holidays, to some extent based on medieval references to sacrifices observed in historical Norse paganism or reconstructions of an early Germanic calendar, but frequently also inspired by the "Wheel of the Year" popular in Wicca, and sometimes also based on ad hoc innovation, e.g. the various "Days of Remembrance" introduced by The Troth.
As a minimal consensus, the three great seasonal blots mentioned in Ynglingasaga are recognized by practically all adherents. These are: Winter Nights (in October, in some Icelandic sagas identified with Dísablót), Midwinter (some time in December or January, often identified with Yule) and Sigrblot (some time in summer). Beyond this, the modern Icelandic festival of Þorrablót is sometimes considered a "pagan holiday".
Suggestions for rituals suited for these various holidays were published by e.g. Edred Thorsson, A Book of Troth (1989) and by Kveldulf Gundarsson, Teutonic Religion (1993).
James Chisholm (1989) published a suggestion for OstaraHermunduri
The Hermunduri, Hermanduri, Hermunduli, Hermonduri, or Hermonduli were an ancient Germanic tribe, who occupied an area near the Elbe river, around what is now Thuringia, Bohemia, Saxony (in East Germany), and Franconia in northern Bavaria, from the first to the third century. At times, they apparently moved to the Danube frontier with Rome. The Thuringii may have been the descendants of the Hermunduri. Claudius Ptolemy mentions neither tribe in his geography but instead the Teuriochaemae, who may also be connected to both.Hornung
Hornung is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
Clarence P. Hornung (1899–1998), American graphic designer
Erik Hornung (born 1933), German Egyptologist
Ernest William Hornung (1866–1921), British author
Joe Hornung (1857–1931), American baseball player
Larry Hornung (1945–2001), Canadian ice hockey player
Otto Hornung R.P.S.L. (1920-2013), philatelist, postal historian and member of the Czecho-Slovak Legion in Poland and Russia 1939-1945.
Paul Hornung (born 1935), American football playerIt was also a Frankish name for the month of February, introduced by Charlemagne; see Germanic calendar § Month names.Hāliġmōnaþ
Hāliġmōnaþ or Hāliȝmōnaþ (Old English: ['hɑːlɪjmoːnɑθ]; modern English: holy month) was the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of September.The name was recorded by the Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede in his treatise De temporum ratione (The Reckoning of Time), saying only "Halegh-monath is a month of sacredness”An entry in the Menologium seu Calendarium Poeticum, an Anglo-Saxon poem about the months, explains that “in the ninth month in the year there are thirty days. The month is called in Latin September, and in our language holy month, because our ancestors, when they were heathen, sacrificed to their idols in that month.”List of calendars
This is a list of calendars. Included are historical calendars as well as proposed ones. Historical calendars are often grouped into larger categories by cultural sphere or historical period; thus O'Neil (1976) distinguishes the groupings Egyptian calendars (Ancient Egypt), Babylonian calendars (Ancient Mesopotamia), Indian calendars (Hindu and Buddhist traditions of the Indian subcontinent), Chinese calendars and Mesoamerican calendars.
These are not specific calendars but series of historical calendars undergoing reforms or regional diversification.
In Classical Antiquity, the Hellenic calendars inspired the Roman calendar, including the solar Julian calendar introduced in 45 BC. Many modern calendar proposals, including the Gregorian calendar itself, are in turn modifications of the Julian calendar.Lithuanian calendar
The Lithuanian calendar is unusual among Western countries in that neither the names of the months nor the names of the weekdays are derived from Greek or Norse mythology. They were formalized after Lithuania regained independence in 1918, based on historic names, and celebrate natural phenomena; three months are named for birds, two for trees, and the remainder for seasonal activities and features. The days of the week are simply ordinal numbers.Month
A month is a unit of time, used with calendars, which is approximately as long as a natural period related to the motion of the Moon; month and Moon are cognates. The traditional concept arose with the cycle of Moon phases; such months (lunations) are synodic months and last approximately 29.53 days. From excavated tally sticks, researchers have deduced that people counted days in relation to the Moon's phases as early as the Paleolithic age. Synodic months, based on the Moon's orbital period with respect to the Earth-Sun line, are still the basis of many calendars today, and are used to divide the year.Máni
Máni (Old Norse "moon") is the personification of the moon in Norse mythology. Máni, personified, is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. Both sources state that he is the brother of the personified sun, Sól, and the son of Mundilfari, while the Prose Edda adds that he is followed by the children Hjúki and Bil through the heavens. As a proper noun, Máni appears throughout Old Norse literature. Scholars have proposed theories about Máni's potential connection to the Northern European notion of the Man in the Moon, and a potentially otherwise unattested story regarding Máni through skaldic kennings.Numbers in Norse mythology
The numbers three and nine are significant numbers in Norse mythology and paganism. Both numbers (and multiplications thereof) appear throughout surviving attestations of Norse paganism, in both mythology and cultic practice.While the number three appears significant in many cultures, Norse mythology appears to put special emphasis on the number nine. Along with the number 27, both numbers also figure into the lunar Germanic calendar.Runic calendar
A Runic calendar (also Rune staff or Runic Almanac) is a perpetual calendar, variants of which have been used in Northern Europe until the 19th century.
The calendar is based on the 19-year-long Metonic cycle, correlating the Sun and the Moon. Runic calendars were written on parchment or carved onto staves of wood, bone, or horn. The oldest one known, and the only one from the Middle Ages, is the Nyköping staff from Sweden, believed to date from the 13th century. Most of the several thousand which survive are wooden calendars dating from the 16th and the 17th centuries. During the 18th century, the Runic calendars had a renaissance, and around 1800, such calendars were made in the form of tobacco boxes in brass.
A typical Runic calendar consisted of several horizontal lines of symbols, one above the other.
Special days like solstices, equinoxes, and celebrations (including Christian holidays and feasts) were marked with additional lines of symbols.
The calendar does not prove knowledge of the length of the tropical year or of the occurrence of leap years. It is set at the beginning of each year by observing the first full moon after the winter solstice. The first full moon also marked the date of Disting, a pagan feast and a fair day.Slavic calendar
While many Slavic languages officially use Latin-derived names for the months of the year in the Gregorian calendar, there is also a set of older names for the twelve months that differs from the Latin month names, as they are of Slavic origin. In some languages, such as the Serbian language these traditional names have since been archaized and are thus seldom used.
The original names of the months of the year in the Slavic languages closely follow natural occurrences such as weather patterns and conditions common for that period, as well as agricultural activities.
Many months have several alternative names in different regions.The Reckoning of Time
The Reckoning of Time (Latin: De temporum ratione) is an Anglo-Saxon era treatise written in Medieval Latin by the Northumbrian monk Bede in 725. The treatise includes an introduction to the traditional ancient and medieval view of the cosmos, including an explanation of how the spherical Earth influenced the changing length of daylight, of how the seasonal motion of the Sun and Moon influenced the changing appearance of the new moon at evening twilight, and a quantitative relation between the changes of the tides at a given place and the daily motion of the Moon.The Reckoning of Time describes the principal ancient calendars, including those of the Hebrews, the Egyptians, the Romans, the Greeks , and the Anglo-Saxons. The focus of De temporum ratione was calculation of the date of Easter, for which Bede described the method developed by Dionysius Exiguus. De temporum ratione also gave instructions for calculating the date of the Easter full moon, for calculating the motion of the Sun and Moon through the zodiac, and for many other calculations related to the calendar.
Bede based his reasoning for the dates on the Hebrew Bible. The functions of the universe and its purpose are generally referenced by scripture. According to the introduction by Faith Wallis in the 1999 English translated edition of The Reckoning of Time, Bede aimed to write a Christian work that integrated the astronomical understanding of computing with a theological context of history. The book is also regarded by Bede to be a sequel to his works The Nature of Things and On Time.Winterfylleth
Winterfylleth (Ƿinterfylleþ) was the Anglo-Saxon or Old English name for the month of October. It marked and celebrated the beginning of winter.The name of the month was recorded by the Venerable Bede thus:
Though in modern times in this month, Halloween is celebrated in America, England and elsewhere, it is not linked to Old English tradition, though many of the customs are English in origin.
There is an English black-metal band named Winterfylleth.Ēosturmōnaþ
Ēosturmōnaþ (modern English: Ēostre’s month) was the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of April.The name was recorded by the Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede in his treatise De temporum ratione (The Reckoning of Time), saying "Eostur-Monath, which we now interpret as the Easter month, comes from [the goddess] Eostre. We now call the Paschal season by her name, thereby referring to the joys of the new festival with the ancient designation.”Ǣrra-Līða
Ǣrra Līða ([æːrrɑ liːθɑ] "first ‘liða’") was the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of June.
Anglo-Saxon paganism and mythology
|Gods and divine figures|
|Society and culture|
History of the Germanic peoples
Early Middle Ages)
|In wide use|