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The Xiuhpōhualli (Nahuatl pronunciation: [ʃiʍpoːˈwalːI], from xihuitl + pōhualli) is a 365-day calendar used by the Aztecs and other pre-Columbian Nahua peoples in central Mexico. It is composed of eighteen 20-day "months," called veintenas or mētztli (the contemporary Nahuatl word for month) with a separate 5-day period at the end of the year called the nemontemi. Whatever name that was used for these periods in pre-Columbian times is unknown. Through Spanish usage, the 20-day period of the Aztec calendar has become commonly known as a veintena. The Aztec word for moon is mētztli, and this word is today to describe these 20-day periods, although as the sixteenth-century missionary and early ethnographer, Diego Durán explained:

In ancient times the year was composed of eighteen months, and thus it was observed by these Indian people. Since their months were made of no more than twenty days, these were all the days contained in a month, because they were not guided by the moon but by the days; therefore, the year had eighteen months. The days of the year were counted twenty by twenty.

The xiuhpōhualli calendar, (in history known as the "vague year" which means no leap day) had its antecedents in form and function in earlier Mesoamerican calendars, and the 365-day count has a long history of use throughout the region. The Maya civilization version of the xiuhpōhualli is known as the haab', and 20-days period was the uinal. The Maya equivalent of nemontemi is wayeb'. In common with other Mesoamerican cultures the Aztecs also used a separate 260-day calendar (Classical Nahuatl: tonalpōhualli). The Maya equivalent of the tonalpōhualli is the tzolk'in. Together, these calendars would coincide once every 52 years, the so-called "calendar round," which was initiated by a New Fire ceremony.

Aztec years were named for the last day of the 18th month according to the 260-day calendar the tonalpōhualli. The first year of the Aztec calendar round was called 2 Acatl and the last 1 Tochtli. The solar calendar is connected to agricultural practices and holds an important place in Aztec religion, with each month being associated with its own particular religious and agricultural festivals. Each 20-day period starts on a Cipactli (Crocodile) day of the tonalpōhualli for which a festival is held. The eighteen veintena are listed below. The dates in the chart are from the early eyewitnesses, Diego Durán and Bernardino de Sahagún. Each wrote what they learned from Nahua informants. Sahagún's date precedes the Durán's observations by several decades and is believed to be more recent to the Aztec surrender to the Spanish. Both are shown to emphasize the fact that the beginning of the Native new year became non-uniform as a result of an absence of the unifying force of Tenochtitlan after the Mexica defeat.

The 20-day months (veintenas) of the Aztec solar calendar are called (in two sequences):

  1. Izcalli
  2. Atlcahualo or Xilomanaliztli
  3. Tlacaxipehualiztli
  4. Tozoztontli
  5. Hueytozoztli
  6. Toxcatl or Tepopochtli
  7. Etzalcualiztli
  8. Tecuilhuitontli
  9. Hueytecuilhuitl
  10. Tlaxochimaco or Miccailhuitontli
  11. Xocotlhuetzi or Hueymiccailhuitl
  12. Ochpaniztli
  13. Teotleco or Pachtontli
  14. Tepeilhuitl or Hueypachtli
  15. Quecholli
  16. Panquetzaliztli
  17. Atemoztli
  18. Tititl

The five days inserted at the end of a year are days of reflection and contemplation still observed today. [1]

Duran Time Sahagun Time Fiesta Names Symbol English Translation
1. MAR 01 - MAR 20 1. FEB 02 - FEB 21 Atlcahualo, Cuauhitlehua MetzliAtlca.jpg Ceasing of Water, Rising Trees
2. MAR 21 - APR 09 2. FEB 22 - MAR 13 Tlacaxipehualiztli MetzliTlaca.jpg Rites of Fertility; Xipe-Totec
3. APR 10 - APR 29 3. MAR 14 - APR 02 Tozoztontli ..MetzliToz.jpg Small Perforation
4. APR 30 - MAY 19 4. APR 03 - APR 22 Huey Tozoztli .MetzliToz2.jpg Great Perforation
5. MAY 20 - JUN 08 5. APR 23 - MAY 12 Toxcatl ..MeztliToxcatl.jpg Dryness
6. JUN 09 - JUN 28 6. MAY 13 - JUN 01 Etzalcualiztli. MeztliEtzal.jpg Eating Maize and Beans
7. JUN 29 - JULY 18 7. JUN 02 - JUN 21 Tecuilhuitontli MeztliTecu.jpg Feast for the Revered Ones
8. JULY 19 - AUG 07 8. JUN 22 - JUL 11 Huey Tecuilhuitl MeztliHTecu.jpg Feast for the Greatly Revered Ones
9. AUG 08 - AUG 27 9. JUL 12 - JUL 31 Miccailhuitontli MeztliMicc.jpg Feast to the Revered Deceased
10. AUG 28 - SEP 16 10. AUG01 - AUG 20 Huey Miccailhuitontli MeztliMiccH.jpg Feast to the Greatly Revered Deceased
11. SEPT 17 - OCT 06 11. AUG 21 - SEPT 09 Ochpaniztli MeztliOch.jpg Sweeping and Cleaning
12. OCT 07 - OCT 26 12. SEPT10 - SEPT 29 Teotleco MeztliTeo.jpg Return of the Gods
13. OCT 27 - NOV 15 13. SEPT 30 - OCT 19 Tepeilhuitl MeztliTep.jpg Feast for the Mountains
14. NOV 16 - DEC 05 14. OCT 20 - NOV 8 Quecholli MeztliQue.jpg Precious Feather
15. DEC 06 - DEC 25 15. NOV 09 - NOV 28 Panquetzaliztli ...MeztliPanq.jpg Raising the Banners
16. DEC 26 - JAN 14 16. NOV 29 - DEC 18 Atemoztli MetzliAtem.jpg Descent of the Water
17. JAN 15 - FEB 03 17. DEC 19 - JAN 07 Tititl MeztliTitl.jpg Stretching for Growth
18. FEB 04 - FEB 23 18. JAN 08 - JAN 27 Izcalli MeztliIzcalli.jpg Encouragement for the Land & People
18u. FEB 24 - FEB 28 18u.JAN 28 - FEB 01 nemontemi (5 day period) MeztliNem.jpg Empty-days (nameless, undefined)

Note: Aztec years were named for the last day of their fourth month[2] according to the 260-day calendar, the tonalpohualli.

Reconstruction of the calendar[edit]

For many centuries, scholars have tried to reconstruct the Aztec calendar. A correlation that is accepted in some circles was proposed by professor Rafael Tena (INAH),[3] based on the studies of Sahagún, Durán and Alfonso Caso (UNAM). His correlation argues that the mexica year started on February 13th using the old Julian calendar or February 23rd of the current Gregorian calendar.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Nemontemi and the Month Quahuitlehua in the Aztec Solar Calendar". World Digital Library.
  2. ^ The Mexica Calendar and the Cronography. Rafael Tena. INAH-CONACULTA. 2008 p 82-83
  3. ^ The Mexica Calendar and the Cronography. Rafael Tena. INAH-CONACULTA. 2008