THE XHOSA CALENDER & INDIGENOUS REFORM

Written by on 06/07/2021

The month of June welcomed the beginning of the Xhosa new year. Most Africans have only known the gregorian calendar, one of the youngest calendrical systems, and are surprised to find out their ancestors were the first to split seasons of the year, group them by days, and conceptualize them. Most of what is used around the world now is somewhat an adaptation of these early calendars by Europeans who learnt from Africans and named the months, years, and ages after their kings, queens and gods. With the ongoing conversation of decolonization, conscious Africans around the world are questioning whether they should continue to use European systems and reclaim the systems founded by their ancestors which venerated nature and teach the next generations to come.

The Xhosa months of the year are poetically named after stars and seasonal plants of Southern Africa. The Xhosa year traditionally began in June and ended in May, when Canopus, the brightest star visible in the Southern Hemisphere, signaled the time for harvesting. In urban areas today, anglicized versions of the months are used, especially by the younger generation. But in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape – the old names still stand.

  • January – EyoMqungu (month of the Tambuki grass)
  • February – EyoMdumba (month of the swelling grain)
  • March – EyoKwindla (month of the first fruits)
  • April – uTshaz’iimpuzi (month of the withering pumpkins)
  • May – EyeCanzibe (month of Canopus)
  • June – EyeSilimela (month of the Pleiades)
  • July – EyeKhala (month of the aloes)
  • August – EyeThupha (month of the buds)
  • September – EyoMsintsi (month of the coast coral tree)
  • October – EyeDwarha (month of the tall yellow daisies)
  • November – EyeNkanga (month of the small yellow daisies)
  • December – EyoMnga – (month of the acacia thorn tree)

Days of the week

  • Sunday – iCawa
  • Monday – uMvulo
  • Tuesday – uLwesibini
  • Wednesday – uLwesithathu
  • Thursday – uLwesine
  • Friday – uLwesihlanu
  • Saturday – uMgqibelo

Seasons

  • Autumn – eKwindla
  • Winter – uBusika
  • Spring – iNtlako hlaza/iNtwasahlobo
  • Summer – iHlobo


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