Imagine going to bed tonight as your calendar reads November 2, 2016; only to wake up the next morning and be told the new day is November 14, 2016! You invariably have lost 11 days!! Yet this was exactly what happened in Britain on September 2, 1752. Exactly what could have warranted this? Let’s take a trip back in time to the chants of the masses shouting: “Give us back our 11 days!”
The “Lost” 11 Days
The eleven days referred to here are the ‘lost’ 11 days of September 1752 skipped when Britain changed over from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, and thus came in line with most of Europe. This change was made necessary due to the Calendar (New Style) Act of 1750.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII was 10 years into his reign as leader of the Catholic Church, when he noticed there was a little problem with Easter – it was traditionally observed on March 21, but began to move further away from this date with each passing year.
This was because the Julian calendar (first implemented by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C), and which was in use at that time measured a year as 365 days and 6 hours long – that’s close but not quite right, since the average length of a year is 365 days, 5 hours and 49 minutes. The 11 minutes difference might not seem like all that much, but compounded over 1500 years (from 46 BC), it begins to add up.
So on February 24, 1582, Pope Gregory XIII released a decree that those under the dominionship of his church would have to skip some days. Spain, large parts of Italy (which was not yet unified), the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Luxembourg, Poland and Lithuania all adopted Gregory’s decree that year. Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, and Prussia (modern-day Germany and Poland) all followed during the next 50 years.
But Britain (and its overseas territories) held out from implementing the decree until 1751, but its introduction was not straightforward. It meant that the year 1751 was a short year, lasting just 282 days from 25th March (New Year in the Julian calendar) to 31st December. The year 1752 then began on 1 January (New Year in the Gregorian calendar). There remained the problem of aligning the calendar in use in Britain with that in use in Europe, hence, it was necessary to correct it by 11 days and was decided that Wednesday 2nd September 1752 would be followed by Thursday 14th September 1752.
The Gregorian calendar is today’s international calendar, named after the man who first introduced it in February 1582, Pope Gregory XIII. It is a solar calendar based on a 365-day year divided into 12 months. Each month consists of either 30 or 31 days with one month, February, consisting of 28 days, while a leap year every 4 years adds an extra day to February making it 29 days long.
The last countries to make the change were Russia in 1918, Greece in 1923, and Turkey in 1927. And by this time, the lag had become so bad that they had to skip 13 days!