And a very happy new year to you all. Of course in Scotland before 1600 that would have been 25th March – legally speaking. In England the law wasn’t changed until 1750 when the New Style Calendar Act changed the legal new year and accepted the Gregorian Calendar. The act passed into law in 1751 meaning that 1751 had only 282 days running from 25th March to 31st December. This didn’t mean people didn’t celebrate January 1st it simply meant that the law deemed the new year to begin in March. Its the reason some official documents don’t seem to be able to make their mind up between January and March what the year actually was and provide both option Old Style and New Style.
Pope Gregory XIII had introduced his modified calendar with leap year in 1582. It was adopted by Catholic countries whilst the Protestant countries continued with the Julian Calendar – that eleven day differential must have made things lively for merchants. And of course historians!
Meanwhile if you were feeling very festive you could celebrate christmas all over again Old Style on the 5th of January. As time passes the difference between the dates on the Julian and the Gregorian calendar will continue to grow making the eleven days more redundant than ever.
The image is from a medieval manuscript depicting the Roman god Janus looking to both the past and the future.