Why do we celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st? For the same reason the sun never came up in Brittan for 12 days back in 1784—calendars.Champagne_2

On September 2, 1752 the good people of England went to bed and when they awoke it was 12 days later. The sun never came up during those days—no newspapers were printed, no one died and no one was born. What happened to freeze time for 12 days? It was the British Calendar Act of 1751, which declared the day after Wednesday the 2nd of September to be Thursday the 14th.

The reason for the correction was that Brittan continued to use the Julian calendar well after many countries had switched to the Georgian Calendar we us today. Hence the official British calendar differed from most of continental Europe by 11 days. That meant that September 2nd in England was September 13th In France.

The Julian Calendar, named after Julius Caesar who requested its creation in 45 B.C.E, consisted of 11 months of 30 or 31 days, and a 28 day February—to include an intercalary day every fourth year. This calendar only varied from a solar year by about 11.5 minutes each year. By the sixteenth century though this variation had the effect of putting the Julian calendar behind the true solar calendar by 10 days. Pope Gregory VIII advanced the calendar 10 days in 1582 and adopted the Georgian Calendar. Several other key changes were made including the first of the year would begin on January 1st, not March 25th.

But protestant countries such as England were reluctant to make these changes resulting in a difference between British colony calendars and that of some European countries of 11 days by 1752.

There were other hold-outs. Germany and the Netherlands did not agree to adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1698. Russia waited until after the revolution of 1918, and Greece did not weigh in until 1923.

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