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Happy palindromic new year!

Two-thousand two is, in fact, the first 4-digit palindromic year since 1991. We who are living now and have been living since 1991 are the few who have been privileged to have been alive during not only one, but two 4-digit palindromic years — first time EVER that such an opportunity has occurred within the spanse of a human lifetime. That is, via the Western, 'Julian' calendar, of course.

I guess the first real palindromic year would have been A.D. 101 (remember, in B.C. times, nobody went around calling it "B.C. 101"). That is, disallowing '99' as a palindrome, cause it's just too easy. So then, the first time humans could have lived through two palindromic years would have been the years 101 and 121 (20 years apart), followed by in that first century anno domini, 121 & 131, 131 & 141, 141 & 151, 151 & 161, 161 & 171, 171 & 181, 181 & 191, and 191 & 202. Presuming that in the first century A.D. the longest human lifespan may have been, say, no more than 120 years, then someone born in 101 and dying in 202 could have actually lived through not two but 10 palindromic years!

The second through the ninth centuries seem to have been equally rich with palindromic years, each with 10. But once we passed the first millenium mark, things turned quickly sparse: 1001 & 1111 [110 years] (only once in that century, and not again until the present day).

So, you're surely wondering, when will the next one be? Try 2002 and 2112 [110 yrs.], but then not again until some 800 years later — the years 2992 and 3003 [11 years].

That is, in the Western calendar. Remember that song from (I think) the early [19]70s: In the Year 2525...? I used to just LOVE that song! It was so cool, so Science Fiction, so Futurist:

In the year 2525,
if Man is still alive,
if Woman can survive,
we may find...

From my journal written back when I was in Thailand in 1996:

Well here in Thailand, we are not living in the year 1996; we are living in the year 2539! In the Thai calendar, the year 2525 has already come and gone, as the stars would have it, having made its appearance during the nadir of Ronald Reagan's recession (1982) — only about a decade after that song came out.

Also, here, as in most places overseas, numerical dates are notated in the order of day/month/year; not in the style we Americans are used to, month/day/year. So today's date in Chiang-Mai (at least in traditional terms — many places opt to use the Western calendar for business reasons) is 7/3/39. I always wanted to live in the late '30s!

Surely several of y'all will think—hey, what about the Chinese year? or the Jewish year? Well, I must claim ignorance. Anybody out there know what year we're in according to those calendars? I think with all the imminent hubbub about making the change over to the next "millennium" according to the Western calendar, we have an opportunity to rethink the appropriateness of its use. Why should we use the youngest calendar around, and one based on the estimated birth of a mystical character who made his mark by claiming to be supernatural and then being tortured to death? Why not use a calendar that reflects the thinking of the majority of the inhabitants of this orb? I think that when aliens finally come to visit this planet and say, "Oh, by the way, what year is it here, anyway?" [that is, assuming they don't measure time in haircuts], the most honest answer we could give would be the year of the oldest human calendar still in use. Anybody know which one that is?

Since then I've done a slight bit of research* and have found this list, from oldest to youngest:

Jewish calendar: 5762
Chinese calendar: 4700
Western (Julian) calendar: 2002
Indian (Sakra) calendar: 1923
Islamic calendar: 1423

*Note: These from a very interesting website on the topic of historical calendars.

But those are only the calendars still in use. What about other, more ancient calendars, and what would be the current year if they were still in use?

Sumerian calendar: ~5000
Egyptian calendar: 6238
Mayan calendar1: 5116
Roman calendar: ~2752

So, after all this time, which calendar wins as the oldest possible one to use? The winner is... those wacky Egyptians, who would have us already in the year 6238. In fact, that wonderful calendar site notes that the Egyptian calendar begins with the first recorded year in history, 4236 B.C.E. So, happy 6238, or something.

    1 Although they would display it in a complex, display, e.g.: ", 3 Cimi 4 Zotz." It is a mixed base-20/base-18 representation of a number, representing the number of days since the start of the Mayan era (, according to the Mayans).

— David Saia

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