Product Spotlight: Calendars

Product Spotlight: Calendars

Where would we be without calendars? Confused, probably. They're a vital link in keeping us organized.

Rick Cundiff

It’s the start of a new year, a time for new beginnings. Consider January, for example. Did you know it’s named for Janus, the Roman god of doorways?

And that’s a doorway into considering how we measure time. I’m guessing that like most of us, you use a calendar all the time to keep track of meetings, appointments, assignments, and deadlines. But how often have you really thought about where calendars came from?  

As it happens, Janus is often depicted as having two faces, one looking forward and one back. That makes this month a perfect time to look back at the fascinating history of calendars and forward to their uses in your marketing plan.

How Old are Calendars?

Calendars have been around longer than you might think. The most basic form has been traced back to at least the Bronze Age (3300 BCE to 1200 BCE).

Early humans logged the passage of time through the rotation of the earth around the sun, and/or by the phases of the moon. The Sumerians divided a year into 12 month based on the lunar cycle.

Ancient Egyptians sought to streamline things, and had sufficient knowledge of astronomy to do so. They created a calendar based on a 365-day year, with 12 30-day months. They added five or six “extra” days at the end of each year.

The Mayans combined lunar and solar cycles to create a calendar with 18 months of 20 days each, with an additional five-day period at the ends.

Hail, Caesar – Here Comes the Leap Year

As astronomers improved their abilities to track celestial events, calendars became more and more accurate. This led to more reliable tracking of the seasons.

By 46 BCE, the Roman calendar of the era was a muddled mess. The combination of political intrigue and a lunar-based system led to the Roman civic calendar being three months ahead of the solar calendar.

Julius Caesar resolved the conflict by introducing what we know as the Julian Calendar. It featured a year of 12 months, with either 30 or 31 days for every month except February, which had 28. Every fourth year, February gained a day in order to keep the calendar in sync with the stars.

This did complicate things at first. The inaugural year, 46 BCE ended up having 445 days just to bring the spring season into March. (Jeez. Imagine how much fun a three-month long February would be.) With some misinterpretations, it took about another 50 years for the Julian calendar to be widely adopted.

The Julian calendar proved to be the most accurate one to date (pun intended) for more than 1,500 years. But by the 16th century, a minor miscalculation in the length of a year meant dates had shifted the seasons by about 10 days from Caesar’s time.

Papal Intervention – The Gregorian Calendar

The key date to keep things in sync is the vernal equinox, the day when the position of the sun is directly above the equator, making the day and night equal length. Pope Gregory XIII modified the Julian calendar by slightly changing the rules to keep leap years in sync. Today, the solar-based Gregorian calendar is the most commonly used one in the world.

That’s not to say it’s the only one still in use. Lunisolar calendars, which track both the sun’s position relative to the earth and the phases of the moon are relatively common, with examples including the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindu, Hebrew and Thai calendars. These are often observed alongside the solar or “civic” calendar.

Calendar Advertising

Advertising and calendars have been a productive collaboration since the 1850s. That’s when a Philadelphia printing company introduced the first calendar that featured ads. As printing technology improved over the years, wall calendars with advertising gained even more popularity.

In the early decades of the 20th century, custom promotional products of all kinds flourished as the advertising and marketing industry developed. Calendars became a time-honored way to promote everything from auto parts to zucchini. Giveaway calendars, complete with promotional imprints became a staple of conferences, conventions and trade shows.

Physical Calendars in the Digital Age?

Today, just about everyone carries a tiny supercomputer in their pocket or purse. It offers many functions, including a calendar app. It’s called a smartphone, of course. Don’t believe me when I say it’s a supercomputer?

Any common smartphone today puts more computing power in your hand than a room-sized machine that cost $9 million in the 1970s. (If you want to look it up, I’m referring to the Cray-1, considered one of the first supercomputers.)

Naturally, when it’s so easy to just reach into a pocket or look at an Apple Watch  to check a date or appointment you might wonder whether traditional physical calendars are still relevant. Sure, they are!

Just as there’s still a market for wristwatches, there’s a market for calendars. And unlike wristwatches, calendars are both affordable and easily customizable.

Quick at-a-glance calendars on a desktop give you the date at a glance without having to pull out a phone or click a mouse. Refrigerator magnet calendars are an excellent way to keep track of kids’ appointments, school events and the like. And either one, when imprinted with a promotional message or logo will keep your brand in front of customers continuously.

It’s easy to take calendars for granted, but they are an essential part of our daily lives. With the right message, they can be an essential part of promoting your business, school or other organization as well. They’re a simple workhorse product that can pay big dividends in scheduling, promotion and just generally keeping your life on track.

By the Way…

Incidentally, Janus, looking both forward and back, is also where we derive the word janitor. These unsung heroes, present in every public building and commercial operation in America, are like calendars, in that they help keep our world organized. And if you check your calendar, you’ll find they’re recognized the second week of September – International Housekeeping Week.

At TJM Promos, we offer a wide variety of custom calendars in all shapes and sizes. To find out more about how they can serve your marketing needs, call or email us.

Rick Cundiff

Rick Cundiff

Content Director, Blogger

Rick Cundiff spent 15 years as a newspaper journalist before joining TJM Promos. He has been researching and writing about promotional products for more than 10 years. He believes in the Oxford comma, eradicating the word "utilize," and Santa Claus.