The Gregorian calendar
If you were living in England or one of its colonies a rather strange event was about to happen today, you would go to bed on September 2nd 1752 and wake up on September 14th 1752. You were now using the Gregorian calendar and eleven days had effectively been skipped over.
By adopting the Gregorian calendar England and its colonies had aligned itself with the rest of Western Europe.
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII had introduced his Gregorian calendar to replace the Julian calendar that had been introduced by Julius Caesar inn 46 BC. The Julian calendar introduced an extra day every four years in February. This made the calendar slightly too long.
|Pope Gregory XIII|
The Gregorian calendar uses a variation that adds leap days in years divisible by four, unless the year is also divisible by 100. If the year is also divisible by 400, a leap day is added regardless. While this formula may sound confusing, it did resolve the lag created by Caesar’s earlier scheme.
Although Pope Gregory’s calendar was adopted by Catholic countries in Europe, Protestant ones did not. In England there were riots when people protested demanding that the government give them their eleven days back.
In the American colonies Benjamin Franklin said “It is pleasant for an old man to be able to go to bed on September 2, and not have to get up until September 14.”
Julius Caesar’s calendar reform of 46 B.C. instituted January 1 as the first of the year. In the Middle Ages, European countries used days that carried greater religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation). The latter, known as Lady Day because it celebrates the Virgin Mary, marked the beginning of the year in Britain until January 1, 1752.