Little Bits of History

Time is Flexible

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 1, 2014
Swedish calendar with the peculiar date of February 30

Swedish calendar with the peculiar date of February 30

March 1, 1700: The Swedish calendar takes effect. The goal of implementing this peculiar-to-Sweden calendar was to bring the country and her possessions into line with the Gregorian calendar without making an instant leap from the Julian calendar then in use. It was decided that rather than jump forward the eleven days between the two systems, Sweden would simple drop the leap year days for the next forty years and eventually they would be aligned with the calendar used by much of the world. They dropped the leap year day during this year and then promptly abandoned the idea.

Since they did not follow their own plan, they matched neither calendar and had their own date for all of their colonies. This became inconvenient enough so that on March 1, 1712, they reverted back to the Julian calendar as proclaimed by King Charles XII. However, this calendar was not aligned with the solar year and it made planning the date for Easter difficult. It did give Sweden the unique date of February 30, 1712 to realign their trial calendar with the older one. Finally, in 1753, again on March 1, they finally adopted the more accurately aligned Gregorian calendar. Because Easter is based on an older Jewish calendar which is a lunar calendar, the whole system was in chaos.

Julius Caesar had the same issues back when he assumed control of the Roman Empire. The Romans were supposed to add an intercalary month to the year when it was needed to bring the calendar back in line with solar year. Certain dates were considered auspicious and sometimes adding to the calendar would have interfered with actual battles and wars which were even more important than when to plant crops. Since the entire thing was out of alignment, the Julian calendar neatened things up. Unfortunately, the time it takes the planet to make one full rotation around the sun is not 365 days on the dot. Instead, it takes 365 days and 6 hours – about. The tropical year is around 11 minutes and 14 seconds less than that.

This precise type of measurement was not available in Rome or not as important. It took hundreds and hundreds of years before the calendars were no longer accurate enough to start bothering the citizens of the world, or at least Europe and the Americas. So further refinements were made and backed by Pope Gregory XIII. All this took place after the Protestant Reformation and countries that were not Catholic were somewhat hesitant to adopt the new calendar since it was seen as overbearing nonsense from the Vatican. The longer the Julian calendar was used, the further from alignment with the true solar year it became. More and more countries adopted the new Gregorian calendar. Today, it is used worldwide for international transactions although there are still many other calendars used locally and religiously.

I’ve been on a calendar, but I’ve never been on time. – Marilyn Monroe

I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life. – Gene Simmons

I’ve never been one of those who wanted to fill my calendar up 90 percent of the time. – Gilbert Gottfried

You are right that I don’t have a lot of spare time because I love to stay busy and keep my calendar full. – Kiana Tom

Also on this day: Peace Corps – In 1961, the Peace Corps was formed.
Saint David – In 589, St. David of Wales died.
Salem Witch Trials Begin – In 1692, the mass hysteria known as the Salem Witch Trials started.
The Buckeye State – In 1803, Ohio became a state, but it took until 1953 for it to be official.

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