From the Washington County Museum
Many of us consider January to be the first of a new year – and in that spirit we say: Happy New Year to YOU!
The calendar that turns to a new year today is the Gregorian calendar. As a solar calendar, the length of the year is determined by the Earth’s orbit around the sun, and to square up the math a leap year is included every four years. But this is not the only calendar one could follow; many have and do exist in different traditions.
The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, with months starting on the new moon. It has a leap month, and the Chinese new year occurs during the Grogorian’s late January/early February. The Chehalis calendar (common to what is now British Columbia) counts ten months from the first salmon spawn in autumn, and leaves uncounted months at the end of the year until the next salmon spawn begins.
The first people to live in the Tualatin Valley, the Kalapuya, use a 12 month lunar calendar which begins with the new moon. The first month, atchálankuaik, is early fall and marks the beginning of prairie burning season. The closest equivalent to January from the Gregorian calendar is the month of átalka. This is the fifth month of the Kalapuya calendar and means ‘the month of the burned breast’, named for people who sit too close to the fire while keeping cozy inside. Before settlement of this area this time of year would find all the people living in winter villages in wooded areas near rivers but above flood plains. Basket making, clothing repair, and games were and are common activities this time of year, in addition to winter dances shared to honor spirits.
-Information compiled by Victoria Sundell, Visitor Experience Specialist
referencing “The World of the Kalapuya” book and Dr. David Lewis’s blog