Couldn’t Pope Gregory have fixed that OTHER calendar problem?

If Gregory was going to go through all that change, maybe he could have addressed a more peculiar problem – the faulty naming of the months.

As you may know, there was a switch in the Western world from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar that the vast majority of us use today. “The motivation for the reform was to bring the date for the celebration of Easter to the time of the year in which the First Council of Nicaea had agreed upon in 325. Because the spring equinox was tied to the celebration of Easter, the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady movement in the date of the equinox undesirable… Between AD 325… (when… the vernal equinox occurred approximately 21 March), and the time of Pope Gregory’s bull in 1582, the vernal equinox had moved backward in the calendar, until it was occurring on about 11 March, 10 days earlier.”

The fix was to make years that are exactly divisible by 100 NOT leap years, UNLESS they are exactly divisible by 400. “For example, the year 1900 was not a leap year; the year 2000 is a leap year;” 2100 will NOT be a leap year. They recalculated a year as “365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, 12 seconds.”

The Catholic countries adopted the change right away. The Protestant countries, not so quickly. “Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. Wednesday, 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752.” This is why one sees references to two dates for George Washington’s birthday in February 1732.

If Gregory was going to go through all that change, maybe he could have addressed a more peculiar problem – the faulty naming of the months. Specifically, September through December. Their names suggest they are the seventh through the tenth months, yet they are, of course, the ninth through the twelfth months.

Couldn’t have Gregory created a 14-month year? After December, he could have declared a couple of intercalative months, and start the new year with March, which once HAD been the beginning of the year. It would have made sense to start with the month of the vernal equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere), wouldn’t it have? Not that the Catholic church of the 16th Century would have necessarily noticed, but other cultures also start the calendar in March.

Also, if you think about it, New Year’s Day is really a terrible time for resolutions.

While I’m musing on this, my daughter was complaining about the weekend. Well, actually, that if Sunday is the first day of the week, how can it be part of the week’s END? I explained that in many places, the week actually starts on MONDAY – something I didn’t realize until I took high school French – so the week’s end actually makes sense, in rational countries. There is actually an ISO standard that designates that Monday starts the week. Naturally, the US will have none of that; it’s too rational, rather like the metric system.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Couldn’t Pope Gregory have fixed that OTHER calendar problem?”

  1. Under the old calendar used by the Romans, March 1st was New Year’s Day. So September would be the 7th month, etc. I’m thinking tradition has a lot to do with keeping the old names. After all, the Pope lived in Rome, and The Church had a lot of tradition to uphold.

  2. Could be worse. In ancient Rome the senate sometimes made changes to the calendar for political purposes, and once the new year was totally just changed from the Ides of March to January 1.

    Also the original Romulus calender only HAD 10 months, starting in March and ending in December. The dark winter months weren’t even on the calender.

    Or you can do Jewish, where the first month of the year is not the month where the new year actually happens. O.o

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