Britain’s Lost Days — Adopting the Gregorian Calendar

Sacred Celtic Sites 2016 wall calendar

Image from our Sacred Celtic Sites 2016 wall calendar. Photograph © Helen Hotson / Alamy. Click image to see more.

September 3, 1752, was a day that never happened in the British Empire. September 4 didn’t happen. Nor did September 5, 6, or 7. In fact, that year the British went straight from September 2 to September 14, skipping over 11 whole days.

The reason was the Calendar Act of 1750, which sought to bring the British Empire in sync with most of the rest of Europe by gradually adopting the Gregorian calendar to replace the Julian calendar. In order to align themselves with the majority of their neighbors, the British began 1751 on the usual day in the Julian calendar — March 25 ­— and then ended it early on December 31 so that 1752 could begin the following day.

This accounted for most of the discrepancy, but there were still 11 extra days preventing them from being fully synchronized. Where did those days come from? Let’s look a little further back. The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar around 46 BCE, had not been precise enough in its calculation of the length of a year. It was only off by a matter of minutes, but over the course of the many years, those minutes added up to days.

By 1582, there was enough of a discrepancy between what the calendar showed and Earth’s actual position in its orbit that the timing of Easter had begun to drift away from where it was supposed to be. To rectify this, Pope Gregory XIII introduced his new Gregorian calendar, which measured one year to be 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and (about) 46 seconds.

Most Catholic countries were relatively quick to follow suit. But Protestant countries such as Britain did not feel inclined to bow to Catholic pressure, and they resisted the change. By 1750, however, it had become too impractical to coexist with neighboring countries that used a different system for keeping time, and the Calendar Act was enacted by Parliament.

With that, Britain and all its colonies worldwide (including those on the east coast of North America) adopted the new calendar. Russia and Greece held out the longest, switching over in 1918 and 1923 respectively, by which time they actually had to skip over 13 days in order to calibrate to the new system.


Tanya FoxOriginally from Australia, Tanya Fox spent several years living and working in Germany, where she happened to meet a nice young man from Oregon. She ended up moving to Portland to marry him, where they now live with their two children. She works as a freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and translator, and delights in the wide variety her work brings her. She can be contacted for publishing projects.

 

 


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The Gregorian calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world today. The majority of Amber Lotus’ calendars follow the Gregorian calendar. The exceptions are Lunaria, Hebrew Illuminations, and The Lakota Way. Each of these 3 calendars include the Gregorian calendar but also feature alternative time keeping methods particular to each focus.

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