The Old Calendar and the New

Celebrating the anniversary of something that happened before 1752 has always been a problem.

That was the year we “lost” eleven days. Astronomers of the time realised that the old Julian calendar was not completely accurate. It had worked well enough for nearly two thousand years, but real time as measured by the movement of the earth round the sun was catching up.

The trouble is that nature, the universe, the cosmos, or whatever you’d like to call it, doesn’t really care about accurate time measurement. Only humans care about that. For example, the ancient Egyptians worked out that the earth takes 360 days to return to the same place in relation to the sun, each year. They divided a circle into 360 degrees to mark the daily progress of the earth.

This wasn’t quite right, of course, and later five days were added on to obtain a more accurate picture. Even that was only an approximation, and in 1752 the modern system of leap years was instituted to reconcile human time measurement as far as possible with cosmic reality.

And they jumped forward eleven days to bring the calendar back to where it should have been. This change to the calendar was not taken to kindly by a largely illiterate population in Europe and North America. Even now in some parts of the western world important dates such as Christmas and Easter are celebrated using the old pre-1752 calendar, so in some places Christmas Day is celebrated on 5th January, and Easter, being based on the phases of the moon, can be even further out.

So bear this in mind when coming back to this Anglo-Celtic Almanac. We aim to record how our ancestors marked the passing of the seasons and any special activities they engaged in on special days.

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