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  • Indrima Das

How the Gregorian Calendar was Formed

The 1st of January brings with it a new year. A new year brings with it a new calendar and a fresh start. Instead of turning a page around, we all scramble to buy or find a calendar for the new year to stay up to date. So how did we come to use such calendars? Most of us use the Gregorian calendar. There are still other calendars in use however, the Gregorian is the most prevalent all around the globe. The Gregorian was made when its predecessor, the Julian calendar caused a loss of ten days during the 16th century.

The Julian calendar had taken the solar year to be 11 minutes and 14 seconds shorter than it actually was. This might seem to be a minor error but after some time, it had caused a ten day discrepancy between the calendar and reality. It was extremely apparent when the equinox was occurring ten days earlier than the calendar date. To correct the error, Pope Gregory XIII employed a German astronomer, Christopher Clavius. His solution was genius. The error mounted up to three days in 400 years. Hence, his proposal was to make century years (ending in ‘00’) leap years only if they were divisible by 400. This meant that years like 1600 and 2000 would continue to be leap years while years like 1700, 1800 and 1900 would not contain the extra day. This solved the problem. When this calendar was adopted, it was announced that the date after October 4, 1582 would be October 15, 1582 to save the lost ten days.

The calendar was adopted in the same year by Portugal, France, Spain and most Italian states. By 1583, the German-speaking Roman Catholic States also followed the Pope’s lead. Other territories took time to accept the new calendar and it was not until the 18th century that they adopted it. Great Britain adopted it in 1752 and by then the gap had increased to 11 days. It caused riots as people believed the calendar was shortening their lives. Russia only adopted it after their revolution, in 1918. To reduce the confusion between dates, the dates according to the Julian calendar are marked by OS (old system) and the dates according to the Gregorian calendar by NS (new style).

I hope every date in your newly bought calendar is filled with happiness and prosperity. Wishing you all a happy new year!

The new year brings a new calendar and a fresh start

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