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Sunday, January 4, 2015
Time is an Enigma by Katherine Pym
Wondering what the date is
passed into a new year. By the Gregorian calendar, it is January 4, 2015. We are
firm in this belief, and are happy with the algorithms that caused this. We
trust the calendar. It is one of our rocks that anchor us to this world.
if it weren’t always like this? How would people handle a moving, mushy
calendar? I’d be nervous, and always wonder what the day was. I’d be afraid to
travel, thinking wherever I went, the date wouldn’t match the place I left.
This was the
case in England prior to 1752. Back then, they followed the Julian calendar
when almost everyone else followed the Gregorian calendar. This differential
caused problems within the government, amongst the merchants, or anyone who
communicated with those abroad.
If you woke up in England January 1st 1700, according to the Julian
calendar, the date would really be December 21st, 1699, since the
Julian was a slug-a-bug, and trailed the Gregorian by approximately 11 days
(all depends on who is counting). The dates would follow this lead until March
25, which was the New Year in the Julian calendar.
your country was at war with England and a treaty ensued? Would you lay down
your arms on January 1st or December 21st? That’s rather
a large gap of days. I can imagine war weary soldiers staring across the fox hole
at each other, wondering what to do.
Oh my, I do see exasperation in your eyes.
EXAMPLE: If you were born to English parents in France (Gregorian) on July 8,
1660, but returning to England, your birth date would actually be June 28 or 29,
1660 (Julian), again, depending on who is counting.
If I were
that child, I'd wander through life in a daze.
September 1752, England finally succumbed to adopt the Gregorian calendar, but
people fussed because they would lose days. How many, even the experts aren't
certain. It ranges from 10-12 days.
I found gives the count of eleven days (or is it twelve?). The other day, I ran
across a little booklet titled: Murders Myths and Monuments of North
Staffordshire, by W.M. Jamieson. This booklet is a compilation of stories
based in this lovely English shire. He entitled a short piece: 'Give us back
our eleven days'.
This is what a good Staffordshire
fellow did about the switch from Julian to Gregorian:
Willett was born in the early seventeen hundreds and lived in Endon where,
according to local mythology he was something of a character... always fond of
a gag or wager.
the year 1752, ...the Government ordered that the days September 3rd to
September 13th would not exist and people going to bed on the evening of the
2nd would wake up on the morning of the 14th.
appeared to be a government trick to rob the people of eleven days of their
life and there were demonstrations outside Parliament demanding that the people
were given back their eleven days.
Willet of Endon saw the possibility of a great joke and a profitable one, and
also a chance to leave his indelible mark on Endon's history. He wagered that
he would dance nonstop for twelve days and twelve nights and eagerly took bets
from many of the villagers.
"On the evening of September 2nd, 1752, William
Willett started to jig around the village of Endon. Next morning, September
14th, he stopped dancing and started to claim his bets."
William Willet was pretty clever. Hopefully, the fair people of the village
didn’t think too badly of his trick, and he made lots of money.
still confused on the missing days. Based on this story, England lost eleven
days, when it seems to everyone, including W.M. Jamieson that William Willet
danced for twelve days.
perhaps, this is a riddle better left unresolved.