Why is Novi Sad Celebrating the Year 7530?

You have probably noticed some of the numerous billboards across the town regarding Дoček 2022 and Дoček 7530 or have gotten acquainted with the rich cultural programme that we are preparing for the European Capital of Culture title year. Or maybe you have ‘picked up on’ the combination of two alphabets in the word Дoček, as well as two years, 2022 and 7530, and have wondered what does the second one actually mean. Doček in Novi Sad is specific for its interculturality. We are celebrating twice, according to the Gregorian and Julian calendars, on 31 December and 13 January, so let us explain why we are celebrating the year 7530. What does it have to do with Novi Sad, Doček and how did we connect this number with the celebration of Orthodox New Year?

The cultures that are founded and that prevail in the large emigrational and historically political crossroads are always marked by the simultaneous existence of different cultural flows, patterns, and word-views. Thus, cultures in the Balkans have for centuries been a meeting place for various influences that have partly shaped Europe as we know it today – its values, views, and even the ways in which Europe measures time. Within the Serbian cultural frame – long marked by Byzantine influences, then Christianised, and subsequently affixed to the Ottoman cultural zone – some of the ancient Slavic elements have persevered to this day, including the patron saint day celebrations (Slavas), as well as time measurement. These elements and this rich field of meeting points will be one of the central motives of the Doček programme arch, within which we celebrate 2022 according to the Gregorian calendar (31 December 2021) and Julian calendar (13 January 2022), together with 7530, which has, according to the Old Serbian calendar, already began (7 April 2021).

We celebrate the ongoing life in this area

On that map where interculturality and diverse cultural influences meet, Novi Sad has a special place, as its area has been inhabited and culturally active continually for 7530 years (More than 5500 years BC to which 2022 is added); everything from the Neolithic Starčevo culture until today, is the time period that is included in the Old Serbian, i.e., folk, calendar.
That parallel between the history of Novi Sad with the folk and traditional Serbian time measuring has served as inspiration for the celebration of the year 7530 within Doček.
That is why Doček is celebrating not only 2022 with the rest of the world but 7530 years of ongoing life in the area of today’s Novi Sad as well, in the title year of European Capital of Culture, which is why Lithuanian scientists Marija Gimbutas called this area ‘Old Europe’.

Time, calendars, and tradition

The celebration of the ending of the old and the beginning of the new year is an ancient religious, social, and cultural pattern in almost all parts of the world. Continuing that old tradition, a bigger part of the world today celebrates the end of the year on 31 December, as per the dominant Gregorian calendar, while the Serbian, that is, Orthodox New Year is celebrated on 13 January – according to the ‘old’, Julian, calendar. These two variants of the calendar – Julian and Gregorian are surely the two most famous historical versions of the calendar. However, in the Serbian tradition, both official and unofficial, another variant has been used throughout history – the Byzantine calendar.

The interesting history of the calendar

The word ‘calendar’ itself originates from the Latin word calendae, which Romans used for the first day of the month. The Julian calendar, modelled on the ancient Egyptian calendar, was introduced by the Roman general Julius Caesar and officially entered into force on 1 January, 45 BC. Per that calendar, the years were not counted from the birth of Christ, but from the founding of Rome, in 753 BC. 1 January was used for the beginning of a new year, and the regular year lasted 365.26 days on average, which were assorted within 12 months. The leap day is added in February every fourth year. The Christian Church accepted it as its official calendar at the First Council of Nicaea, held in 325. It was then decided that Easter should be celebrated in the first week after the spring equinox. Due to a mistake made in the Julian calendar, the equinox shifted, and thus the time of Easter and other holidays.

Due to the growing delay from the accurate calculation of time, Pope Gregory XIII announced the reform of the hitherto existing Julian calendar on 24 February 1582. Pope Gregory XIII decreed for it to be Friday, October 15, the day after Thursday, October 4 of that year. In this way, the accumulated difference in days was erased. The difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars is 13 days, and after 2100 it will be increased to 14 days. The history of the adoption of the Gregorian calendar was quite long, but in the 20th century, the Gregorian calendar was accepted by countries with a majority Orthodox population as well. However, the Orthodox Churches have never switched to this calendar. This complex history of creating and accepting new ways of calculating time served, therefore, as a basis for creating the programme concept of ‘Doček’, which is more than just a celebration, because its programme combines different cultural views of time and world.

Byzantium calendar and the creation of the world

The creation of the Gregorian calendar was preceded by another influential Roman tradition of counting time, however, it originated on the other side of the Balkans, not in the Western, but in the Eastern Roman Empire. The Byzantine calendar was in official use in the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire from 988 to 1453. Unlike Julian, the names of the months in the Byzantium calendar were, for example, transcribed from Latin into Greek, and the years were not counted from the birth of Jesus, but from the beginning of the world, which was determined to be 1 September, 5509-08 years BC. This Byzantine calendar was used in the countries under the Byzantine influence, through which several of its variants were spreading. According to the Constantinople version of the Byzantine calendar, the first day of the year was 1 September, while within the Alexandrian or Antiochian version, the day of the Annunciation, 25 March, was taken as the beginning of the year.

Year 7530 as per the Old Calendar

In medieval Serbia, the Byzantine calendar was in use, and in addition to the September one, the so-called March dating was in use, especially until the reign of Tsar Dušan the Mighty, although, it was used even after that. This is confirmed to us in his work Eternal Calendar, from 1783, by the writer who died in Novi Sad, Zaharije Orfelin, who explains that there is an ‘astronomičeski and a ‘graždanski god’. The ‘astronomičeska’ that is, astronomical year originates from the movement of the Sun along the Zodiac. On the other hand, ‘graždanski god’ the civil year, begins in January for Christ’s birth. So, to calculate the years according to the Byzantine calendar today, we need to add 5508 to the dates from January 1 to August 31, and 5509 for the remaining dates. With this calculation, we come to the year 7530, which, according to the Old Serbian calendar, already began in April. The monasteries of Fruška Gora around Novi Sad celebrated on that date up until the end of the 19th century.

Milutin Milanković as inspiration for Doček

From medieval times onwards, Serbian traditions slowly abandoned this calendar and replaced it with Julian, which came into official use during the 19th century. On 10 January 1919, the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes adopted the Law on Equalization of the Old and New Calendars, more precisely the replacement of the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar, for citizens of all faiths. Although by then it had become accepted that the ideal calendar did not exist, five years later, Serbian scientist Milutin Milanković created the so-called ‘Revised Julian Calendar’, which scientists consider the most accurate today. It was adopted at the All-Orthodox Congress of 1923 in Constantinople and accepted by many Orthodox churches, excluding the Serbian one. Milanković’s calendar served as inspiration for the Doček programme, that is for the Opening Ceremony play ECoC Zeniteum :: 2022 and the exhibition Time and Universe that you will get to enjoy on 13 January.

Authors: historian MSc Ljiljana Dragosavljević Savin and Aleksa Nikolić
Photo: Vladimir Veličković

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