Which Day Is The First Day Of The Week?

by oaeen

The concept of the week and the designation of its first day vary across cultures and historical periods. This article examines the origins, evolution, and cultural significance of the week, focusing on the debate over which day is considered the first. By exploring religious, societal, and historical contexts, this study aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the diverse perspectives on the week’s commencement. The findings highlight the interplay between tradition, religion, and modernity in shaping our perception of the week’s structure.


The seven-day week is a universally recognized temporal unit, yet its interpretation and the designation of its first day differ globally. While some cultures and religions traditionally regard Sunday as the week’s commencement, others, including most modern Western societies, recognize Monday as the first day. This article delves into the historical, religious, and cultural foundations of these differing perspectives, exploring how they have evolved over time and their implications for contemporary society.

Origins of the Seven-Day Week

The seven-day week has ancient origins, deeply rooted in astronomical and religious traditions. Its establishment can be traced back to the Babylonians, who observed a seven-day cycle based on the lunar phases. This system was subsequently adopted and adapted by various cultures, each imbuing it with unique significance.

Babylonian Influence: The Babylonians linked the seven-day week to their planetary deities, with each day dedicated to a specific celestial body. This structure profoundly influenced neighboring civilizations, including the Hebrews and Greeks.

Jewish Tradition: The Hebrew Bible, particularly the Book of Genesis, describes the creation of the world in six days, with God resting on the seventh day, the Sabbath (Saturday). This established a religious precedent for the seven-day week, with Saturday as the final day, making Sunday the first day.

Roman Adoption: The Roman Empire, under Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE, adopted the seven-day week and institutionalized Sunday as a day of rest and worship for Christians. This move significantly influenced Western cultural norms and calendrical systems.

Religious and Cultural Perspectives

Religious traditions play a crucial role in defining the first day of the week. These perspectives are deeply ingrained in cultural practices and societal norms.

Christianity: In Christianity, Sunday is traditionally considered the first day of the week, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This designation is observed in liturgical practices and is reflected in the calendars of many Christian-majority countries.

Islam: In Islamic tradition, Friday (Jumu’ah) holds special significance as a day of congregational prayer. The Islamic week typically begins on Saturday, making Friday the sixth day, followed by Saturday as the first day.

Judaism: For Jews, the Sabbath (Shabbat) is the seventh day of the week, beginning at sunset on Friday and ending at sunset on Saturday. Consequently, Sunday is considered the first day of the week.

Secular and Modern Practices: In many contemporary Western societies, influenced by business and economic activities, Monday is regarded as the first day of the week. This secular perspective aligns the workweek with the Gregorian calendar used globally for civil purposes.

Historical Evolution

The historical evolution of the first day of the week reflects a complex interplay of religious doctrine, cultural practices, and practical considerations.

Early Calendrical Systems: Early civilizations such as the Egyptians and the Chinese utilized different calendrical systems, often based on lunar or solar cycles, which did not necessarily conform to the seven-day week.

Medieval and Renaissance Europe: During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Christian calendar, with Sunday as the first day, dominated Europe. The influence of the Church was paramount in shaping the weekly structure.

Enlightenment and Industrialization: The Enlightenment era brought about a more secular approach to timekeeping, influenced by scientific advancements and industrialization. The adoption of Monday as the first day of the workweek became practical for economic reasons, facilitating a standardized business schedule.

Contemporary Practices and International Standards

Today, the designation of the first day of the week varies globally, often reflecting a blend of historical, cultural, and practical considerations.

ISO Standards: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established ISO 8601, which designates Monday as the first day of the week for international business and communication purposes. This standard aims to harmonize global practices and reduce confusion.

Regional Variations: Despite ISO standards, regional practices persist. For example, the United States and Canada typically consider Sunday the first day of the week in popular usage, while most European countries align with the ISO standard.

Technological Impact: Digital calendars and global communication platforms often default to Monday as the first day of the week, reflecting the influence of international standards. However, users can often customize settings to align with personal or regional preferences.

Implications for Society

The designation of the first day of the week has practical implications for various aspects of society, including education, business, and social organization.

Education: School schedules often reflect the societal norm for the week’s structure, impacting lesson planning, extracurricular activities, and family routines.

Business and Commerce: The alignment of business operations with the weekly cycle influences work patterns, productivity, and economic planning. The standardization of Monday as the start of the workweek facilitates international trade and communication.

Cultural Identity: The recognition of specific days as the beginning of the week is a reflection of cultural identity and heritage. Preserving these traditions is important for cultural continuity and communal practices.

See also: What Is The Best Day Of The Week?


The question of which day is the first day of the week is not merely a matter of calendrical convention but a reflection of deep-seated religious, cultural, and historical influences. While Monday is widely recognized as the first day of the workweek in modern secular contexts, Sunday continues to hold significance as the first day in many religious traditions. Understanding these diverse perspectives enriches our appreciation of global cultural practices and underscores the importance of historical context in shaping contemporary norms. This article provides a comprehensive exploration of the first day of the week, offering valuable insights into the interplay between tradition, religion, and modernity in our temporal organization.

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