Weekend: or Why 7 Days?

This is a response to Sidey‘s weekend theme, which this weekend is WEEKEND.

We would not have a weekend if we did not have a week. (that seems to be why we want weekends.) But I often wondered about why we have weeks, why 7 days? Especially, because this 7 day week seems to be world-wide, seems to have been world-wide wherever there have been records in history, and at the same time, does not seem to belong to any obvious reason.

Google of course – lots of answers or should I say suggestions and I have more to do with myself this weekend (I hope) than read them all. I like the look of this one from Peter Mayer. Why do I like it? He knows the answer is not in R/religion. The R sort seem to want to claim it as usual to justify their R rather than get interested in something interesting. Then there are possibilities like the lunar month is 4X7. Yeah so everyone said we are not working 20 days and then having a longlong 8-day weekend. Well of course not, in those days they didn’t have the working week as they were all agrarian society, pre-iron-age, and their camels got the hump if no-one looked after them for 8 days. Just like farmers now, or new parents, or anyone in non-intellectual kinds of work. So work is done when it is necessary to do it.

I remember one of my first culture shocks in China, way back in 2004 when I first visited. Cindy’s boss in Panyu asked her to come in to work on Sunday, and even though I was there, the mother-in-law visitor, a VIP in China rather than a bad joke, she went! China is a mainly secular society, until relatively recently also mainly an agrarian society, and work is done when it is necessary to do it.

I like Peter Mayer’s Why Seven Days in a Week? because he does not provide an answer, but leaves it as a ‘we don’t know’ with some social history and suggestions. For example, there are 7 celestial bodies visible with the eye which wander across the background of the ‘fixed’ stars. These are, Sun, Moon, and 5 planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). So 7 could be an important number. We know various languages where the days are named for these seven, or for the gods who were supposed to have particular interest in their own day. Chinese are more practical, the chinese for Monday Tuesday – Saturday, is xingqi yi, xingqi er – xingqi liu which usually translates as week1, week2, – week6 with Sunday being the exception. Sunday has alternative names, instaed of 7,  xingqi ri where ‘ri’ is ‘sun’, sometimes it is xingqi tian, or ‘sky’. However the translation of xingqi as ‘week’ if split into xing and qi actually seems to mean star – time. The irony is that the weekend is now becoming quite important in China, as international practice is more and more adopted in all kinds of ways.

Positive thought – the whole world co-operates and has a 7-day week for no good reason. Obviously the whole world has been multicultural and co-operative (on this at least) for as long as history has been around. There is hope for us yet!

Negative thought – the whole world ended up with a 7-day week because the people who felt certain said it was 7 days, shouted loudest, and over-ruled everyone else who said we really do not know when we want to have a rest.

I digress from WEEKEND, see where a suggestion can go! Off to have a good weekend, you have one too.

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5 thoughts on “Weekend: or Why 7 Days?

  1. Interesting indeed! The fundamental Bible-punchers get very passionate about work on Sundays – working on them seem to be equated with murder, rape and pillage from their points of view. Of course, they are among those who would be seriously miffed if you suggest we don’t really know why the week is seven days long.

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