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Friday, December 29, 2006

Have another date dear?

I'm sorry but I can't wish you a Happy New Year for another 84 days! Why? Well somebody decided in 1752 in England that we would overturn the tradition of five centuries (before 13th century, New Year started at Christmas), and switch New Year from Lady Day (the Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March) to 1st January which, although it had and has religious significance (St. Basil, Circumcision), was certainly not the reason for the change - at least in England ... the reasons were commercial; Mammon rather than God.

Of course in 1752 the UK also moved on to the Gregorian Calendar, 170 years later than on mainland Europe. There were riots that year as labourers lost 11 days pay in a shortened working month. In 1900 an extra leap day was dropped to adjust the calendar. This explains why the fiscal year ends on 5th April (25th March, Julian Calendar) as it was on this day that the tax men collected taxes as they toured the Medieval Annunciation Spring Fairs - and so began our long love affair with the Inland Revenue!

Oh, and don't get me started on Christmas! "Oh, you Orthodox ... you have a different Christmas don't you?" 'Groan,' you think, 'short or long explanation'? Do I even bother? Oh well, long explanation it is. Well, the Greek Church and tradition has the same calendar as the west. So for us it's the same date for Christmas .... which, by the way we call "Nativity." The Slav tradition and Jerusalem keep to the 'old' Julian Calendar which is now 13 days behind the Gregorian Civil Calendar, (still awake? ... good!). So, when it's 25th December in Moscow on the local Church Calendar it's actually 7th January on the civil (Gregorian) Calendar. (At this point either or both of you are wishing that the topic had never been raised). So even in Russia it's not REALLY 7th January. OK? Maybe not ...

What about Easter? Why does it keep floating about? The UK government has been trying to "tidy things up" and cajole the churches into having a fixed date for decades. So far, (thank God), the churches have not blinked first. It's all to do with the phases of the moon dear and the vernal equinox ... oh, and for the Orthodox, "after Passover." Hands off! We need something left that will infuriate the bean counters at the Treasury. For how long though? The State has been eroding Christian holy-days in England since Henry "The Butcher" VIII decided that the peasants weren't productive enough and had too much time off. The UK now has the lowest number of public holidays in Europe. It's something to do with the Protestant Work Ethic ... but that rant will have to wait for another time.

Happy New Year!

Fr. Gregory


Steve Hayes said...

Being involved in two parishes, one on the old calendar and one on the ne, means that we get two bites of the cherry -- see my LiveJournal if you're interested.

The disadvantage is that some are feasting while others are fasting and vice versa.

HanseaticEd said...

Rant on, Father. Thanks for the comments.

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