- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 26, 2004

BALTIMORE — An astronomy professor is hoping to persuade the world to switch to a new calendar that would take the guesswork out of when Christmas and other holidays fall each year.

Replacing the extra day added to the calendar every leap year with a week every five or six years that professor Richard Henry calls “Newton Week,” in honor of Sir Isaac Newton, would make every day of the year fall on the same day of the week.

New Year’s Day 2006 would be the perfect time to start the calendar, he says, because in both the current calendar system and on his new calendar, that day falls on a Sunday.

Mr. Henry acknowledges he is a “bit of Grinch” because he designed his calendar so that Christmas and New Year’s Day would fall on Sundays.

“You know what happens toward the end of the year. A lot of people like the mess at the end of the year because it gives them time off,” he said.

Mr. Henry said he knows he doesn’t have much hope of succeeding. But, he argues, the new calendar would save countless hours of work worldwide.

“You’d have one calendar on your wall and you’d never change it,” he said.

Mr. Henry said he knew he could not get rid of the seven-day week in the interests of efficiency because of mandates in the major religions for a weekly sabbath.

Instead, he decided to shorten the year to 364 days. The months would remain the same, although every third month would be 31 days and the rest 30 days long. The week that would replace the extra leap year day would be inserted between June and July every five or six years, depending on a rotation Mr. Henry has worked out until the year 9998.

Members of one religion might find reason to object. Druids, who keep careful tabs on the solstices, the shortest and longest days of the year, would find those days varying under Mr. Henry’s calendar.

“That never occurred to me,” Mr. Henry said. “Here I pay all this attention to the Jews, Christians and Muslims, and I forgot about the Druids.”

Mr. Henry, who said he was raised a Protestant but does not practice any religion, said simplifying the scheduling of classes he teaches, and not religion, was the motivating factor in developing the new calendar.

“Usually, it’s the same course and the next year the homework is going to be due on different dates. I have to go through this every time and redo it because the calendar shifts around,” Mr. Henry said. “I said, ‘Is this really necessary?’ And, to my astonishment, I discovered it really isn’t.”

One objection, however, has been hard to overcome, he said.

“Some people really don’t like the idea their birthday will fall on the same day of the week,” he said. “They like the variety.”

Maya Dewan, 22, is one of those. The AmeriCorps volunteer said she wouldn’t mind if her birthday fell on a Friday or Saturday.

“It would be just depressing if you had your birthday on a Monday or a Wednesday,” she said while sitting at a Baltimore coffee shop with friends.

Her friend, Leila Ahoor, 21, agreed. “It seems so unnecessary. Is scheduling that difficult?”

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