The English calendar is based on that devised by Julius Caesar, the 'Julian calendar'. It has twelve months, beginning on 1 January, but as the Christian Church disapproved of the wild festivities held by pagan Romans around that date it chose 25 March, the Feast of the Annunciation, as New Year's Day; some countries adopted this for civic purposes too, but not all. In England, the year was held to begin either on 1 January or 25 December up to the late 12th century, when 25 March was chosen instead; the two systems ran concurrently till 1751, with calendars and almanacs using 1 January, but legal and official documents using 25 March. The year reckoned in the latter way was called the 'Year of Grace'.
   Astronomically, the Julian calendar was faulty, being based on a slightly mistaken estimate of the length of a year. As centuries passed, it became visibly out of synch with the astronomical solstices and equinoxes, and in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII directed that that year be shortened by ten days, reorganized the method of reckoning leap years, and restored 1 January as New Year's Day. Catholic countries adopted this 'Gregorian calendar', but Protestant ones did not, though the mathematician Dr *Dee argued as early as 1583 that England too should make an adjustment, preferably of eleven days. At last, in 1750, Parliament decreed that the year 1751 would end on 31 December, and that in 1752 September would be shortened by eleven days, with 2 September being followed immediately by 14 September. (The tax year, however, was not changed, and still starts on 5 April, eleven days after the old New Year date of 25 March).
   The 'loss' of eleven days worried many people, and some were upset that festivals would no longer be held on the 'right' date, i.e. precisely twelve months after they were last held (see *Holy Thorn). An 'Old Style' date is eleven days later than the adjusted calendar; thus 10 October is an Old Style equivalent to Michaelmas (29 September), while 6 January is both the Feast of the Epiphany or Twelfth Night in its own right (New Style) and the Old Style equivalent of Christmas (25 December).
   Quarter Days were four dates marking the beginning or end of legal contracts, especially between landlord and tenant or employer and employee. In England they were Lady Day (25 March), Midsummer Day (24 June), Michaelmas (29 September), and Christmas Day.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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