29 February 2008

Just go rewrite the calendar, why doncha?

As I pointed out here, the sad news is that people who were born on leap day are unlikely ever to celebrate a golden birthday. That fact is so sad, it causes me to weep mightily.

Have you ever wondered why we have leap years? Or April Fool's Day, for that matter? You can thank Pope Gregory XIII. He and some other guy didn't like the fact that the Julian Calendar rounded the length of the year off wrong, so every year, the first day of spring (which I think was used as a marker to determine various religious holidays) fell on a slightly earlier date. At some point it became so early in the year that they decided to revisit the whole calendar thing. They created the Gregorian calendar way back in the 16th century... 365 days in a year, plus a leap year every fourth year, except for "centenary years," which are only leap years if they're divisible by 400.

TMI? Ah, sorry. Calendars are yet another random interest of mine.

SO... way, way later... 1752, if I remember correctly (shoot, now you know how old I am!) the UK (which was not called the UK at the time) adopted the calendar. At least, that was the first full year that they used the calendar. Shifting dates, confusion, craziness, etc. April Fool's Day was the day that would have been the start of the year, except that the Gregorian Calendar made January the beginning of the year... the "April fools" were the people who (silly them) forgot that April was no longer the start of the year.

Ever wondered why Orthodox Easter, etc. are on different days than Roman Catholic Easter? That also ties into the calendar change. They still estimate some of their holidays by using the Julian calendar, which predated the Gregorian calendar.

And you think your calendar is stable now? Ha, hardly -- just look at the way they keep moving Mr. Ben Franklin's beloved Daylight Savings Time around. Incidentally, don't forget to change your clock next weekend! :)

No comments: