The Change of Calendars

By W. S. Laidley

A Calendar or Almanac is a list or table of days and months throughout the year to denote the division of time. Time is defined to be a part of duration or existence, and Calendars are used to keep account of this period of existence. Calendars have been used in some form by all people, they have existed in the form of notchsticks and now are made into good sized books, full of all kinds of information.

A year is the time that it requires the Earth to make a revolution around the Sun. and there is more than one way to measure this time, and the different ways do not all give the same result, but the solar year has been determined as the year and it is pronounced to be three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes and forty-eight seconds.

A day, is the time in which the Earth makes one revolution on its axis, the time from sun up until sun up. A month was formerly considered the time between new moons, which is about twenty-nine days and one-half day. This is called the lunar month.

The time keepers and Calendar makers tried to make all these divisions arranged together, the year, the month and the day multiples of each other, but twelve lunar months would not make a full year, and thirteen month's made more than a year, and some of them placed a short month in the year, every few years, to keep the months and the seasons in place.

So it was a difficult matter to establish dates, in a manner that it could be told when an incident transpired, whereby such date could be recorded. Different nations adopted different times to begin to count from, and they also had a different way in counting, and it was a slow process in establishing a method by which the certainty of dates could be ascertained, if it has yet been done satisfactorily in reference to ancient incidents and transactions.

The Jews reckon from the beginning of Creation, but we know not when they first began to use said date or formed their first calendar. They evidently suppose that they know it accurately as they give the time of the birth of Christ from creation as 3,760 years and three months.

They had their year divided into twelve months and occasionally placed in an extra month.

The Roman Calendar formerly had the year divided into ten months, and they were as follows: The first was called Martins, our March. The Second April is, April. The third Mains, May, and the fourth Junius, June. The other following months were named fertile numbers of the month, thus for the fifth, Quint His; the sixth, Sextilis; the seventh, September; the eighth, October; the ninth, November and the tenth, December.

Subsequently there were added two others, February and January, but in 452 B. C. this order was changed and January was placed before February, and then February was the last month.

In 46 B. C. Julius Caesar reformed the Calendar somewhat and he made Quintilis into July and Sextilis into August, and made other changes. His Calendar has since been known as the Julian Calendar, and new called the Old Style to distinguish it from others. This continued in use until the year 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII. promulgated a new calendar, for the use of the Church, which was known as the Gregorian Calendar or new style. This new style was adopted generally by the Roman Catholic countries, but the Protestant countries refused to accept it at first because it came from the Pope. Scotland, however, adopted it in 1600, and the German Protestant States, Denmark and Sweden about 1700. Religious prejudice gave way to convenience and benefits.

England being engaged in commerce with all the countries of the world, made use of the old style and the new until 1751, when Lord Chesterfield, aided by several scientific gentlemen, secured an Act of Parliament making the change. This Act provided that the first day of January, following December 31, 1751, should be the first day of the year, before that time the year began with the 25th day of March. It also provided that the natural day next immediately following the 2nd day of September should be called the 14th day of September, omitting for that time only the eleven days intermediate nominal days of the common calendar.

This act was published in 24 Geo. 11 Ch. 23, and is also found in Hennings Statutes of Virginia, Vol. 1, page 393-4. It is said to have produced great excitement and objection in England, and the members were threatened by a mob, as they claimed they had been robbed of eleven good days, etc. It was customary to refer to the dates of year between January and March thus, 1637-8; 1742-3; and sometimes thus 174 2-3. After the change was made, when former dates were referred to the same was followed by O. S., to denote that the reference was by the Old Style.

Washington was born February 11. 1832 O. S., but this has been dropped and now it is called February 22, 1732. Russia is the only Country that now uses the Julian Calendar. France, in her days of Revolution, adopted an entirely new calendar, but after the storm had passed, Napoleon, in 1806, restored the Gregorian Calendar.

Books and Articles ~ AHGP

Source: The West Virginia Historical Magazine, Quarterly, Volume 3, January, Charleston, West Virginia 1903.


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