The Gregorian Calendar

We take time for granted all the time.

It is there from the moment we are born, to the moment we die. It’s there always. Only, it isn’t really there.
We all seem to agree that things progress in a linear fashion, but the question of how to document, compartmentalise and live effectively within that passage is largely down to choice.

Sure, the heavens make it a lot easier by doing their thing on a relatively regular basis, but people haven’t always agreed on the best way to divvy-up the day so we can all get on with business.

In terms of telling the time itself, let’s keep things simple. Let’s stick with the way we do things now (the French did use decimal time for a short period during the revolution, but we’ll explore the headache that turned out to be at a later juncture).

Right now there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in all non leap years.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Nowadays, we use the Gregorian calendar. Previously we used the Julian calendar, which has 365.25 days exactly, meaning there was a leap year EVERY four years, but that is, despite popular misconception, no longer the case.

The difference is the fact that the Gregorian calendar omits the leap year on secular years (century years) unless they are divisible by 400 (there was a leap year in the year 2000, and will be one in 2400, 2800, 3200 etc.). This is to compensate for the errors accumulated over a long period of time.

So although we – those of us alive today – have never experienced the phenomenon, there was no leap year in 1700, 1800 or 1900, nor will there be one in 2100, 2200, 2300 and so on.

In 1582, when the Gregorian calendar was adopted, 10 days were omitted to correct the errors of the Julian calendar and the date jumped from Thursday 4th of October, to Friday the 15th.

If that’s not pub quiz gold, I don’t know what is.

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