Klingon Calendar

A Brief Summary

The Klingon day “jaj” lasts 1.006 Earth days, or 24 hours, 8 minutes and 38 seconds.
A Klingon year “DIS” lasts 564 Klingon days, or 567.38 Earth days.
The Klingon year is divided into eleven months “jar”:
Month Klingon Days Long
a’qeylIS 51
jo’voS 51
maqtaH 51
So’jen 51
nay’poQ 52
lo’bral 51
mer’utlhIj 51
batlh 52
tlha’laH 51
do’qat 51
QuSten 52

What Do We Know?

Occasionally, some dates have been mentioned. In TNG “New Ground”, Alexander says that his date of birth is S.D. 43205, or “43rd Maktag.” DS9 “Soldiers of the Empire” sees Worf making a log entry dated “the fifty third day in the year of Kahless nine ninety nine.” Although it’s not absolutely certain, VOY “Prophecy” suggests that Miral was conceived in the Klingon month of Nay’poq.

A lot of what we find out about Klingons and their history revolves around Kahless “the Unforgettable,” who first appears (at least by proxy) in TOS “The Savage Curtain”. He returns later in TNG “Rightful Heir”, and is mentioned on several other occasions. He’s a mythical and semi-legendary figure in Klingon history, a bit like King Arthur in British history, although there seems to be a bit more hard evidence for his historical existence. There is some confusion about exactly when he lived, though. TNG “Rightful Heir” places him some 15 centuries earlier, in the 9th century C.E.. Dax estimates the age of the Sword of Kahless in DS9 “The Sword of Kahless” as 1,400 years. At other times, the age of Kahless is placed 1,000 years ago, in the 14th century C.E.. Gowron says Kahless died 1,000 years ago in TNG “Rightful Heir”, and the Battle of Qam’Chee where Kahless and the Lady Lukara were present is also about 1,000 years before DS9 “Looking for Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”. It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if the decision to make it Klingon year 999 in DS9 “Soldiers of the Empire” was an attempt to address this inconsistency.

The Expanded Universe

Unusually for “Star Trek”, what’s appeared on-screen isn’t the last word, even officially. There is a Klingon language, developed by Marc Okrand, who has supported and encouraged the development of a large, enthusiastic and still-growing Klingon-speaking community. Naturally, the developing Klingon language has seen a parallel development of aspects of Klingon culture. Although the calendar isn’t a priority, some additional information about it has been devised. The Klingon words for “day,” “month” and “year” used above come from The Klingon Dictionary by Marc Okrand (2nd ed., New York: Pocket, 1992). It needs to be stressed that the Klingon words in the dictionary have been provided to allow Earth dates to be expressed in Klingon. No information about the Klingon calendar itself is provided, other than it has divisions with names that can be translated to “day,” “month” and “year.”

Klingon for the Galactic Traveler, Marc Okrand. (New York: Pocket, 1997) expands slightly on the dictionary. A Klingon day “jaj” is specifically measured from dawn to dawn (rather than from midnight to midnight). “Day” referring to the period when it is light is a completely different Klingon word, “pem”. The book also makes it quite clear that Klingon “days,” “months” and “years” are not identical to the same periods on Earth. From this, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that “jaj” refers to the time it takes the Klingon homeworld Chronos to rotate once on its axis (a day), “jar” at least approximates the time it takes the Klingon moon Praxis to travel once around Chronos (a month; at least, it was before Praxis blew up) and “DIS” refers to the time Chronos takes to complete one orbit of its sun (a year).

There is another source of information about the Klingon calendar: paq’batlh edited by Schönfeld et al., translated by Marc Okrand. (Den Haag: Uitgeverij, no date). As a “print on demand” book issued by a Dutch publisher, it hasn’t had the publicity it might, and it is relatively expensive. Although it doesn’t have much to say about the calendar itself, it does explain that the “era of Kahless” is called “qeylIS bov” in Klingon, and “before the era of Kahless” is “qeylIS bov nubwI’”. I originally used the suggested abbreviations Q.B. and Q.B.V. in Klingon dates throughout the timeline. Then it really began to get on my nerves that Q.B.V. isn’t the abbreviation of “qeylIS bov nubwI’”, so I’ve changed it to Q.B.N. So there.

Finally, when I decided that I might as well assign names to all my suggested Klingon months, I used Christopher Bennett’s extensive calendars webpage as a first source of reference: http://home.fuse.net/ChristopherLBennett/DTI%20Calendar%20Notes.html. That led me to http://www.housevampyr.com/main.php?title=Klingon%20Calendar&body=training/culture/calendar/calendar.html. Although it is obviously intended to convert conventional Earth dates into something more “Klingon”, it does include both of the “canonical” month names given above, along with some eminently reasonable suggestions for another seven months, some of which seem to have been used in the Pocket Books tie-in novels.

There are also some facts which appeared in the draft scripts of stories, but not in the final episode. Tracking these down is more a matter of luck than science. Originally, Data was supposed to explain in TNG “Rightful Heir” that Kahless had died 1,547 years before the story.

What About the “Five Month” Thing?

When I was looking for information about the Klingon calendar, I found several places where it was stated unequivocally that “no five-month period in the Klingon calendar is exactly equal to any other,” or something similar. Making all the months slightly different lengths to accomplish this isn’t difficult, but where did it come from, and is it something I needed to do? After a lot of careful searching, I came across the following passage on pages 205-206 of Klingon for the Galactic Traveler:

“Similarly, the Klingon words jaj, jar and DIS are normally translated as “day,” “month,” and “year,” respectively, but the length of a Klingon day, month, or year is not the same as the Terran counterpart. Calculating the length of a Klingon day, month, or year is not at all a straightforward exercise, but suffice it to say that a period of five months is not the same amount of time as a period of vagh jarmey (vagh, “five”; -mey, plural indicator).”

This is as close as I’ve managed to get. I think that somewhere along the line this passage has been paraphrased incorrectly. It may be that the Klingon calendar has a lot of months of slightly different lengths, but it makes for a complicated calendar. In the end, I couldn’t see why Praxis wouldn’t have a fairly regular orbit, leading to fairly regular months. Then when I realised that the Klingon year lasted 564 Klingon days, with eleven months, making them all 51 or 52 days long seemed a lot simpler that constructing an elaborate system of months of varying lengths.

Putting It Together

Any completed calendar is going to be more guesswork than extrapolated fact. I wanted a calendar that did certain things, so I fixed so that it would. The first point is the “era of Kahless.” When should it start? I wanted it to involve longer years that Earth years, so that the 999 Klingon years of the era established in DS9 “Soldiers of the Empire” represents a period of time equivalent to the “fifteen centuries” of Earth time since the supposed lifetime of Kahless in TNG “Rightful Heir”. But how exactly does that work? Does the era date from a “best guess” at when Kahless ascended the throne? If so, how long did he reign? The answer I found after a lot of searching is “it hasn’t been established.” Then there’s the problem of accuracy. If Kahless is a figure of myth and legend rather than history, how can you know the date he ascended the throne?

In practice, the “Common Era” is supposedly based on the birth of Jesus, although practically all anyone can say for certain is that he’s very unlikely to have been born in 1 C.E. or A.D. The calendar has been worked out centuries after the event, based largely on guesswork. Sticking to established “fact,” how might that work for the Klingons? The most precise date is the one dropped from TNG “Rightful Heir”, placing Kahless’ death 1,547 years earlier. What do we know about the death? Again from TNG “Rightful Heir”; Kahless pointed at a light in the sky, told his followers to look for him there, and then died. This promise to return someday is a vitally important part of Klingon beliefs, so I think I’m treading on as few toes as possible when I suggest that the “era of Kahless” is dated from “The Promise,” or at least, when Klingon scholars thought that The Promise had been delivered, probably based on counting back and then taking a few guesses. The accuracy may therefore depend on astronomical calculations of the appearance of Boreth in the sky of Chronos, rather than any genuine historical information at all.

Once I’ve decided on a starting point, all I have to do then is balance the rest of what we know. In practice, once I had decided on a rough length for the Klingon year, the rest was fixed quite easily. The day and month lengths had to ensure that Alexander was born on the 43rd of the month, and DS9 “Soldiers of the Empire” had to be on the 53rd day of the year 999. Although I tried to make this work with only nine Klingon months to the year, it soon became obvious that the numbers could only work using eleven months. Since I had only nine month names, I arbitrarily added batlh, “honour” and QuSten (I’m not sure it means anything in Klingon; my best guess is that it’s “start of a conspiracy” and that seemed OK for a Klingon month name) to the list. Although I started off with the same order as House VamPyr, I had to shift Maktag to suit Alexander’s birthday, and Nay’pok to my estimate of Miral’s conception. I also changed the spelling of the month names to reflect Marc Okrand’s spellings and orthography. I have probably made a complete hash of it, and I didn’t try to assign meanings to any of the names except the ones I shoehorned in.

The end result is featured in the calendars page spreadsheet. Although there aren’t that many Klingon festivals, my dating assumptions place the Klingon “Day of Honor” on 41st So’jen, and the Kot’baval Festival will fall on 5th maqtaH.

Klingon Writing

by StrauchiusStrauchius on 09 Feb 2011 13:12, last updated on 24 Mar 2016 08:34