How UK New Year Used To Be The Iranian One

ladyday_largeWhen the UK had to align its calender to the European calender, drastically change it’s new year’s date and drop Lady Day (as referred to in the novels of Thomas Hardy) it ceased to be aligned with the ancient festival of new year which in Iran continues to be celebrated now as it was many thousands of years ago, on the Spring Equinox. It was fiscal, it was agricultural, it was Lady’s Day:

“Firstly, we need to go back to 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII ordered a change from the Julian Calendar (named after Julius Caesar) to the Gregorian Calendar (named after, well you can probably guess). The Julian Calendar had consisted of eleven months of 30 or 31 days with a 28 or 29 day February, and had worked pretty well for the previous 1600 years or so. However, it differed from the solar calendar (the actual time taken for the earth to travel around the sun) by approximately 11½ minutes per year and by the late 1500s this discrepancy had put the Julian calendar behind the Solar calendar by 10 days.

fra-angelico-the-annunciation1And so in 1582 Europe changed to a new system which drops a leap year every Century (unless that century is divisible by four, unless that century is divisible by four-hundred) and the problem was solved. Except that the UK, who had previously had their own “disagreements” with the head of the Catholic church on matters such as divorce, ignored the Pope’s decree and carried on with the Julian Calendar (as did Russia incidentally and for much longer than the UK). Thus for the next 170 years there existed a difference of at least 10 days between the calendar in Britain and that used in the rest of Europe. Using the new rules, 1600 added another day’s difference, whereas 1700 did not, and by 1752 Britain was therefore 11 days out.

Meanwhile, in England and Ireland the four main Christian religious holidays (including Christmas Day) had been used as the “quarter days” on which debts and accounts had to be settled and rents for land and property had to be paid. The first of these quarter days fell on “Lady Day” (the date of the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ), being 25 March and that was also New Year’s Day and the first day of the British tax year.

quill1 It was not until 1752 that the British finally realised that they would have to align their calendar with the rest of Europe and move New Year’s Day to 1 January and drop 11 days from the calendar in order to catch-up. Therefore, 1752 would be an unusual year and in fact it was September 1752 that was the unusual month, with 2 September being immediately followed by 14 September. Perhaps understandably, the British people were unhappy with being robbed of 11 days of their lives and took to the streets to protest. The main focus of their fury was that their taxes were not also being similarly adjusted and so they were expected to pay a full year’s tax, despite the fact that the year had only 354 days.”

Taken from the Tax Advisory Partnership website.

Lady’s Day also meant a lot to geese farmers, producers of quills amongst others for whom the new season was loaded with meaning, both metaphysical and physical.