While I was sorting through some of the paperwork that I had to move from my desk, I found a couple of calendar sheets I’d printed off a few years ago for, what were then, potential story ideas.
It actually has a lot of practical everyday uses too: world clock, time zones, sun and moon settings, and many other options.
The calendars highlighted that one of my stories (set in Dorset) takes place under the Julian Calendar, and the current work in progress uses the Gregorian Calendar (the type we use now).
My Nottinghamshire story takes place over many months in 1802 so a calendar for that year is helpful. A reader won’t appreciate countryside summer flowers in bloom if the heroine is still wrapped up in her winter best…
Before 1752 (when the actual calendar changed for people) we used the Julian Calendar. This meant New Year was actually the 25th March, known as Lady Day (one of the Quarter-Days find out more about these days and dates here).
The legal profession still use these quarter days, and if the system has worked well for centuries then there is little point changing it.
If you saw the news item not long ago about various heads of different religious denominations discussing making Easter (or their equivalents) a fixed date, it’s clearly not a simple process.
If you’re not sure how this movable Easter date is calculated you can read the terms specified in law, in this transcribed British Calendar Act of 1750. The additional notes are helpful. If you’re brave enough, venture into the tables link in the additional notes…
I’d assumed that once the law had passed, the change was completed in the same year. But that was not what occurred.
Gradual changes were implemented over a few years.
We might say now that the year has gone quickly, but in 1751 that actually was true. The year began as tradition on March 25th but ended early on the 31st December, rather than March 24th, 1751/52
So 1752 began on the 1st of January, and then in the September, that month was only 19 days long losing the 3rd to the 13th.
For anyone who has never looked at old records (recorded under the earlier calendar) such as parish registers or other official documents, the last few months before Lady Day would show two years, 1750/51; but with the gradual realignment of the New Year that ceased.
While our February only goes up to 28, and 29 days in a leap year, the 30th February has actually existed in history.
In 1712, Sweden and Finland added two days to February, making up for their not having had a leap year in 1700; it enabled them to get back in order with the Julian calendar.
If Easter is ever to becomes fixed, I wonder if it will take as long to resolve as the calendar change did…