Reading deeper into dates

Today is the “official” birth anniversary of my father who passed away on December 01, 2013. Officially, if he was alive today, the late Mr. Chow Kong Yong would have been 85 years old.

It was not until we were arranging for my father’s funeral in December 2013 that we discovered a new fact about my dad. One that we suspected even my dad, a retired school master did not know about.

My father’s birth certificate showed that he was born on the 5th of August, 1929 in the town of Pusing near Ipoh. All along we learned to remember his birthday on the Gregorian Calendar as such and that his birthday on the lunar calender was the 23rd Day of the Sixth month. You can imagine the shock we, the children and grandchildren of the late Mr. Chow showed when the administrator for the columbarium in Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple (a famous Chinese temple built into a series of caves in Ipoh) calmly informed us that the 23rd Day of the Sixth month in 1929 did not fall on 5th of August but 29th of July!

It seemed that for 84 years my dad (and the rest of us) did not know his actual date of birth! I then recalled one of the stories that my late grandfather used to tell me when I was a kid. During the good old days (in the 1930s – 40s), many babies were born in the home. The “standard operating procedure”  (SOP) back then was to report the birth at the nearest police station to get a birth certificate for the child. With high infant mortality, especially during the Great Depression years, the SOP was to wait till the baby survived for 7 days before the father would register the birth. It is my educated guess that my grandfather followed this SOP as far as the birth of my dad was concern!

Of course during those early years it was very difficult to convert the date from Lunar Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar system, so the “mistake” in my dad’s birth date would go on undiscovered. But today, we have plenty of apps on our smartphones that have lunar calendars which can do a conversion of dates in 2 to 3 swipes. If one wants to get the conversion from an authoritative source, the Hong Kong Observatory provides great conversion tables.

So if you are given a date, especially a distant date in the lunar calendar by anyone, do not take their word for the conversion of this date to Gregorian Calendar. Always double check with your lunar calendar apps or to be on the safe side, consult the Hong Kong Observatory’s conversion tables! For conversion of Muslim Calendar to Gregorian Calendar (and vice versa),  this site provides a good conversion apps on their website.

I guess the wrong conversion of my late father’s birth date shall remain a Chow family joke for generations to come!

The late Mr. Chow Kong Yong, taken on Feb 11, 2011 in his house in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.

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