Origin

     The Coptic calendar, also called the Alexandrian Calendar, is used by the Coptic Orthodox Church.  It is based on the Ancient Egyptian calendar.  It is the oldest in history, originated three millennia before Christ.  The exact date of its origin is unknown.  It is believed that Imhotep, the supreme official of King Djoser C.2670 BC, influenced the construction of the calendar. The Egyptian calendar is simple; it is neither a lunar nor a solar calendar.  Months do not correspond to lunar months and years do not correspond to solar years.  The Egyptians calculated their years by the stars.  They used the star Sirius (which the Egyptians called Sothis).  Sothis returns to the same point in the calendar every 1460 years (a period called the Sothic Cycle).  A reform of the Ancient Egyptian calendar was introduced at the time of Ptolemy III (Decree of Canopus, in 238 BC).  However, the reform was opposed by the Egyptian priests, and the idea was not adopted until 25 BC, when the Roman Emperor Augustus formally reformed the calendar of Egypt, keeping it forever synchronized with the newly introduced Julian calendar.  This reformed calendar is known as the Coptic calendar.

The Coptic Year

     The Coptic year is an extension of the ancient Egyptian civil year, retaining subdivisions of 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 keeping track of the agricultural seasons.  The Coptic calendar has 13 months, 12 are 30 days each, and an extra month, similar to a leap year, at the end of every year of 5 or 6 days.

     The Feast of “Nayrouz” marks the first day of the Coptic year.  In Coptic, “Nayrouz” comes from the word “Niarwou” meaning “river.”  Its celebration falls on the 1st day of the first month named Tute, which usually coincides with the 11th day of September.  Coptic years are counted from AD 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").  To obtain the Coptic year number, subtract 283 from the Julian year number, before the new year.

     The Ancient Egyptians named their months after their gods, and chose their names according to the season of the climatic changes for agriculture.  They divided the year into 3 main seasons:

1)     The season of the flood of the Nile. (Tute to Kiahk)

2)     The season of vegetation. (Tubah to Baramoudah)

3)     The season of reaping and harvesting. (Bashans to Misrai)

4)     The short month is not a season, and is a chance for feasts and festivals.

The Coptic Months

  • Tute: Named after the god Tegot, Tut or Tuhout, who is the god of wisdom, science, art inventions, and divine mysteries for the Egyptians.  American Calendar equivalent: September 11 (12 in the Leap year) to October 10.
  • Babah: Named after Yee-pee or Ha-pee, the god of the Nile or of Thebes.  He is also the god of vegetation.  During this month the face of the earth becomes green with vegetation.  American Calendar equivalent: October 11 (12 in the Leap year) to November 9.
  • Hatour: Named after Hator or Hatho, the goddess of love and beauty, because during this month the land becomes lush and green.  American Calendar equivalent: November 10 (11 in the Leap year) to December 9.
  • Kiahk: Named after Ka-Ha-Ka, the god of good, who is the sacred bull Apis.  American Calendar equivalent: December 10 (11 in the Leap year) to January 8.
  • Tubah: Named after the god Amso or Khem, who is a form of the God Amoun-ru, the god of Thebes in Upper Egypt; he is the god of the growth of nature because much rain falls during this month.  American Calendar equivalent: January 9 (10 in the Leap year) to February 7.
  • Amshir: Particular to the genius of wind, because the storms and wind occur much during this month. It is the month in which the summer heat begins.  American Calendar equivalent: February 8 (9 in the Leap year) to March 9.
  • Baramhat: Named after the god Mont, which is the god of war. During this month the temperature is high and thus the Egyptians called it the month of the sun.  American Calendar equivalent: March 10 to April 8.
  • Baramoudah:  Named after Renno, the god of severe wind or death. During this month the season of vegetation ends and the earth becomes dry.  American Calendar equivalent: April 9 to May 8.
  • Bashans: Named after Khonso, the god of the moon, on of the Thebic trinity and the son of Amoun-Ru and Mout.  American Calendar equivalent: May 9 to June 7.
  • Baounah:  Named after Khenti, one of the names of Horus or the sun. It means "the god of metals".  American Calendar equivalent: June 8 to July 7.
  • Abib: Named after Api-fee or Abib, who is the big serpent which Horus (the sun), the son of Osiris, killed to revenge for his father.  American Calendar equivalent: July 8 to August 6.
  • Misra: Particular to the birth of the sun or what is known as the "summer shift".  American Calendar equivalent: August 7 to September 5.
  • El-Nasi (The Little Month): It has 5 days in three successive years and 6 days in the leap year.  American Calendar equivalent: September 6-10.