Those stacks of calendar pages just don’t quite line up

For some reason I thought that when Pope Gregory fixed the calendar in 1582, everybody but England went along.

Not true (and by the way, this is my last fixing-of-the-calendar entry, so just tune out if this is too boring. And why it fascinates me so, I’ll never quite understand. But for historians, all those dates and non-dates between 1582 and 1923, when Greece finally succumbed, must be a nightmare.).

For Spain, Portugal, Poland, Lithuania, and most of Italy (some of Italy resisted the Pope, of all things), today was October 15, 1582, instead of October 5 (thereby fixing Easter back to the all-important formula of the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon, which is usually but not always the astronomical full moon, on or after March 21st). (Why Easter was so important, as opposed to Christmas, for example, we’ll never know.)

Now, there were a whole bunch of countries that, understandably, couldn’t understand why a pope should be messing around with their calendars, and the longer they took to get back in sync the more days they had to get rid of. So it took Denmark, for example, until 1700 to obliterate all of February after the 18th. In Russia, they decided there was so much going on in 1918 they might as well do away with some of that year, so February didn’t start till Valentine’s Day.

But Swedish historians must really tear their hair out. Sweden decided to make the change gradually, by eliminating all the leap days between 1700 and 1740, when, theoretically, they’d be caught up; but in 1704 and 1708 they forgot, so whatever historical events happened in Sweden on February 29 in those years really did happen. King Charles XII, in his wisdom, decided to fix this problem by adding February 30 to the year 1712, and somehow they limped along till 1753, when they finally did away with February after the 17th.

Got all that?

Now I’ll go back to celebrating time, still seeing the days as little stacks of calendar pages, using the faulty premise that a date is a date is a date.

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This entry was posted in Celebrations, festivals, memorials, Time and calendars and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Those stacks of calendar pages just don’t quite line up

  1. Pingback: Chopin, redux « Celebrating Time

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