Calendar Classes


ICU has two main calendar classes used for parsing and formatting Calendar information correctly:

  1. Calendar
    An abstract base class that defines the calendar API. This API supports UDate to fields conversion and field arithmetic.

  2. GregorianCalendar
    A concrete subclass of Calendar that implements the standard calendar used today internationally.
In addition to these, ICU has other Calendar sub classes to support non-gregorian calendars including:

  • Japanese
  • Buddhist

  • Chinese

  • Persian

  • Indian

  • Islamic

  • Hebrew

  • Indian

  • Coptic

  • Ethiopic

The Calendar class is designed to support additional calendar systems in the future.

NoteCalendar classes are related to UDate, the TimeZone classes, and the DateFormat classes.

Calendar locale and keyword handling

When a calendar object is created, via either Calendar::create(), or ucal_open(), or indirectly within a date formatter, ICU looks up the 'default' calendar type for that locale. At present, all locales default to a Gregorian calendar, except for the compatibility locales th_TH_TRADITIONAL and ja_JP_TRADITIONAL. If the "calendar" keyword is supplied, this value will override the default for that locale.

For instance, Calendar::createInstance("fr_FR", status) will create a Gregorian calendar, but Calendar::createInstance("fr_FR@calendar=buddhist") will create a Buddhist calendar.

It is an error to use an invalid calendar type. It will produce a missing resource error.

NoteAs of ICU 2.8, the above description applies to ICU4J only. ICU4J will have this behavior in 3.0


This section discusses how to use the Calendar class and the GregorianCalendar subclass.


Calendar is an abstract base class. It defines common protocols for a hierarchy of classes. Concrete subclasses of Calendar, for example the GregorianCalendar class, define specific operations that correspond to a real-world calendar system. Calendar objects (instantiations of concrete subclasses of Calendar), embody state that represents a specific context. They correspond to a real-world locale. They also contain state that specifies a moment in time.

The API defined by Calendar encompasses multiple functions:

  1. Representation of a specific time as a UDate

  2. Representation of a specific time as a set of integer fields, such as YEAR, MONTH, HOUR, etc.

  3. Conversion from UDate to fields

  4. Conversion from fields to UDate

  5. Field arithmetic, including adding, rolling, and field difference

  6. Context management

  7. Factory methods

  8. Miscellaneous: field meta-information, time comparison

Representation and Conversion

The basic function of the Calendar class is to convert between a UDate value and a set of integer fields. A UDate value is stored as UTC time in milliseconds, which means it is calendar and time zone independent. UDate is the most compact and portable way to store and transmit a date and time. Integer field values, on the other hand, depend on the calendar system (that is, the concrete subclass of Calendar) and the calendar object's context state.

NoteInteger field values are needed when implementing a human interface that must display or input a date and/or time.

At any given time, a calendar object uses (when DateFormat is not sufficient) either its internal UDate or its integer fields (depending on which has been set most recently via setTime() or set()), to represent a specific date and time. Whatever the current internal representation, when the caller requests a UDate or an integer field it is computed if necessary. The caller need never trigger the conversion explicitly. The caller must perform a conversion to set either the UDate or the integer fields, and then retrieve the desired data. This also applies in situations where the caller has some integer fields and wants to obtain others.

Field Arithmetic

Arithmetic with UDate values is straightforward. Since the values are millisecond scalar values, direct addition and subtraction is all that is required. Arithmetic with integer fields is more complicated. For example, what is the date June 4, 1999 plus 300 days? Calendar defines three basic methods (in several variants) that perform field arithmetic: add(), roll(), and fieldDifference().

The add() method adds positive or negative values to a specified field. For example, calling add(Calendar::MONTH, 2) on a GregorianCalendar object set to March 15, 1999 sets the calendar to May 15, 1999. The roll() method is similar, but does not modify fields that are larger. For example, calling roll(Calendar::HOUR, n) changes the hour that a calendar is set to without changing the day. Calling roll(Calendar::MONTH, n) changes the month without changing the year.

The fieldDifference() method is the inverse of the add() method. It computes the difference between a calendar's currently set time and a specified UDate in terms of a specified field. Repeated calls to fieldDifference() compute the difference between two UDates in terms of whatever fields the caller specifies (for example, years, months, days, and hours). If the add() method is called with the results of fieldDifference(when, n) , then the calendar is moved toward field by field.

This is demonstrated in the following example:

Calendar cal = Calendar.getInstance();
cal.set(2000, Calendar.MARCH, 15);
Date date = new Date(2000-1900, Calendar.JULY, 4);
int yearDiff = cal.fieldDifference(date, Calendar.YEAR); // yearDiff <= 0
int monthDiff = cal.fieldDifference(date, Calendar.MONTH); // monthDiff ;<= 3
// At this point cal has been advanced 3 months to June 15, 2000.
int dayDiff = cal.fieldDifference(date, Calendar.DAY_OF_MONTH); // dayDiff ;<=19
// At this point cal has been advanced 19 days to July 4, 2000.

Context Management

A calendar object performs its computations within a specific context. The context affects the results of conversions and arithmetic computations. When a calendar object is created, it establishes its context using either default values or values specified by the caller:

  1. Locale-specific week data, including the first day of the week and the minimal days in the first week. Initially, this is retrieved from the locale resource data for the specified locale, or if none is specified, for the default locale.

  2. A TimeZone object. Initially, this is set to the specified zone object, or if none is specified, the default TimeZone.

The context of a calendar object can be queried after the calendar is created using calls such as getMinimalDaysInFirstWeek(), getFirstDayOfWeek(), and getTimeZone(). The context can be changed using calls such as setMinimalDaysInFirstWeek(), setFirstDayOfWeek(), and setTimeZone().

Factory Methods

Like other format classes, the best way to create a calendar object is by using one of the factory methods. These are static methods on the Calendar class that create and return an instance of a concrete subclass. Factory methods should be used to enable the code to obtain the correct calendar for a locale without having to know specific details. The factory methods on Calendar are named createInstance().

NoteMONTH field
Calendar numbers months starting from zero, so calling cal.set(1998, 3, 5) sets cal to April 15, 1998, not March 15, 1998. This follows the Java convention. To avoid mistakes, use the constants defined in the Calendar class for the months and days of the week. For example, cal.set(1998, Calendar::APRIL, 15).

Ambiguous Wall Clock Time Resolution

A UTC offset change in a time zone will result a wall clock time repeated twice (negative offset transition) or a range of wall clock time skipped (positive offset change). When local time observes daylight savings, such ambiguous wall clock time 

When a given set of input calendar fields fall into the ambiguos

Gregorian Calendar

The GregorianCalendar class implements two calendar systems, the Gregorian calendar and the Julian calendar. These calendar systems are closely related, differing mainly in their definition of the leap year. The Julian calendar has leap years every four years; the Gregorian calendar refines this by excluding century years that are not divisible by 400. GregorianCalendar defines two eras, BC (B.C.E.) and AD (C.E.).

Historically, most western countries used the Julian calendar until the 16th to 20th century, depending on the country. They then switched to the Gregorian calendar. The GregorianCalendar class mirrors this behavior by defining a cut-over date. Before this date, the Julian calendar algorithms are used. After it, the Gregorian calendar algorithms are used. By default, the cut-over date is set to October 4, 1582 C.E., which reflects the time when countries first began adopting the Gregorian calendar. The GregorianCalendar class does not attempt historical accuracy beyond this behavior, and does not vary its cut-over date by locale. However, users can modify the cut-over date by using the setGregorianChange() method.

Code that is written correctly instantiates calendar objects using the Calendar factory methods, and therefore holds a Calendar* pointer, Such code can not directly access the GregorianCalendar-specific methods not present in Calendar. The correct way to handle this is to perform a dynamic cast, after testing the type of the object using getDynamicClassID(). For example:

void setCutover(Calendar *cal, UDate myCutover) {
  if (cal->getDynamicClassID() ==
      GregorianCalendar::getStaticClassID()) {
    GregorianCalendar *gc = (GregorianCalendar*)cal;
    gc->setGregorianChange(myCutover, status);
NoteThis is a general technique that should be used throughout ICU in conjunction with the factory methods.


When computing a UDate from fields, some special circumstances can arise. There might be insufficient information to compute the UDate (such as only year and month but no day in the month), there might be inconsistent information (such as "Tuesday, July 15, 1996" -— July 15, 1996, is actually a Monday), or the input time might be ambiguous because of time zone transition.

  1. Insufficient Information
    ICU Calendar uses the default field values to specify missing fields. The default for a field is the same as that of the start of the epoch (that is, YEAR = 1970, MONTH = JANUARY, DAY_OF_MONTH = 1).

  2. Inconsistent Information
    If fields conflict, the calendar gives preference to fields set more recently. For example, when determining the day, the calendar looks for one of the following combinations of fields:

    For the time of day, the calendar looks for one of the following combinations of fields:
    AM_PM + HOUR

  3. Ambiguous Wall Clock Time
    When time offset from UTC has changed, it produces ambiguous time slot around the transition. For example, many US locations observe daylight saving time. On the date switching to daylight saving time in US, wall clock time jumps from 1:00 AM (standard) to 2:00 AM (daylight). Therefore, wall clock time from 1:00 AM to 1:59 AM do not exist on the date. When the input wall time fall into this missing time slot, the ICU Calendar resolves the time using the UTC offset before the transition by default. In this example, 1:30 AM is interpreted as 1:30 AM standard time (non-exist), so the final result will be 2:30 AM daylight time.

    On the date switching back to standard time, wall clock time is moved back one hour at 2:00 AM. So wall clock time from 1:00 AM to 1:59 AM occur twice. In this case, the ICU Calendar resolves the time using the UTC offset after the transition by default. For example, 1:30 AM on the date is resolved as 1:30 AM standard time.
NoteOptions for Ambiguous Time Resolution
Ambiguous wall clock time resolution behaviors can be customized by Calendar APIs setRepeatedTimeOption() and setSkippedTimeOption(). These methods are available in ICU 49 or later versions.

NoteWEEK_OF_YEAR field
Values calculated for the WEEK_OF_YEAR field range from 1 to 53. Week 1 for a year is the first week that contains at least getMinimalDaysInFirstWeek() days from that year. It depends on the values of getMinimalDaysInFirstWeek(), getFirstDayOfWeek(), and the day of the week of January 1. Weeks between week 1 of one year and week 1 of the following year are numbered sequentially from 2 to 52 or 53 (if needed).
For example, January 1, 1998 was a Thursday. If getFirstDayOfWeek() is MONDAY and getMinimalDaysInFirstWeek() is 4 (these are the values reflecting ISO 8601 and many national standards), then week 1 of 1998 starts on December 29, 1997, and ends on January 4, 1998. However, if getFirstDayOfWeek() is SUNDAY, then week 1 of 1998 starts on January 4, 1998, and ends on January 10, 1998. The first three days of 1998 are then part of week 53 of 1997.

Programming Examples

Programming for calendar examples in C++, C, and Java .

Subpages (1): Calendar Examples