Happy Lady Day Today!
- I received in private email at least two wishes for a happy Kurdish New
Year. In one the person asked if there was any connection between the
Kurdish New Year and Lady Day in England.
Since writing the response took me awhile and may contain useful information
for the rest of you, I thought I would copy my answer here:
You are right in your speculation about the coincidence of the Kurdish New
Year and Lady Day being around the same time. It has to do the Spring or
Vernal Equinox. Since at least 2000 B.C. in the cradle of civilization
(Mesopotamia - right where Iraq now lies - between the Tigris and Euphrates
Rivers) the Babylonians had a calendar where the beginning of each New Year
was calculated from the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. After all,
this was the beginning of spring and new life so it was felt to be the
perfect time to celebrate beginnings in all things.
The Babylonians had actually been able to calculate the Spring Equinox
according to a natural phenomenon - the beginning of spring when day and
night are each about 12 hours long all over the earth.
The Romans, who invented the metric system, had a calendar of ten months
starting with the Babylonian new year of the Spring Equinox. They named the
first four months after gods or Roman festivals: March for Mars (god of
war), April for Aprilus (believed to be a sun celebration), May for Maia
(goddess of youth and vitality), June for Juno (queen of gods and goddess of
marriage) and then numbered the rest from 5 on: Quintilis (5th but later
renamed July for Julius Caesar), Sextilis (6th but later renamed August for
Caesar Augustus), September (7th) , October (8th), November (9th), December
(10th). About 239 B.C. Aristarchus of Alexander devised a calendar believed
to be based on the Babylonian one that incorporated the scientific knowledge
that the earth took about 365 days and 6 hours to orbit the earth and thus
introduced two additional months and created a leap year. Although the
Romans did not adopt the leap year until Julius Caesar's time, they were
using the 12 months in 153 B.C. calling the extra two: January for the god
Janus and February for Februa (feast of purification). Somewhere along the
line they had decided that Rome was founded on a particular date that they
had been using for their Senate elections and decided this should now
coincide with the beginning of the year. After all Janus was the two faced
god - facing the old and the new year.
When Julius Caesar came along he felt the Roman new year should revert back
to the Vernal (Spring) Equinox and he also adopted the leap year. By the
time he reset his calendar about 48 B.C. the date of Spring Equinox was
March 25th but later revisionists had to account for the fact that the civil
calendar is 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the natural solar year.
Thus by the fourth century the Spring Equinox was arriving on March 21st on
the "Original" Julian Calendar. The "Old Style Julian Calendar, which dates
from 325 A.D., reset this date to March 21st to correct this error.
As the Christian religion evolved according to the Roman calendar, the Feast
of the Annunciation (the date the angel announced to Mary she would give
birth to the Saviour) was set according to the Spring Equinox, which at the
time was the March 25th. When the calendar was changed to the March 21st as
the Vernal Equinox this did not change the Feast of the Annunciation. The
Feast of the Annunciation became better known as Lady Day (shortened from
the Day of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary). (And as you will see later the March
25th date stayed as the beginning of the New Year in spite of the 325
Newroz (Kurdish) and Nevroz (Turkish) new year's day falls on the Spring
Equinox according to our calendar, which has been March 21st since 325 A.D.
(though the date of the western new year was kept at March 25th until the
adoption of the Gregorian calendar).
Thus both evolved from the Spring Equinox and the beginning of the year and
new life. However, that's where the Christian world and the non-Christian
world changed with the "New Style Julian Calendar", which we now know as the
Scientists realizing the spring equinox was now out of sync again between
the solar and civil calendars was what influenced Pope Gregory XIII in 1582
A.D. to revise the calendar. The major change beside resetting the New Year
to start on January 1st was that he removed ten days to adjust the civil
calendar to ensure March 21st was closer to the actual event. Thus you see
how the calendar is constantly reset by the Spring Equinox even though our
western new year no longer falls on that day.
However, not all countries adjusted to the calendar on October 5, 1582.
Those that did, woke up on that date to find it was now October 15, 1582.
Riots broke out and people feared the saints would be upset at their feast
days changing. The ten day difference became known as the "Pope's lost" or
"stolen ten days". Not all of the western world changed to the new calendar.
It was mostly those who followed the Roman Catholic faith that changed then
or soon after.
Thus France changed to the new calendar and the January 1st New Year date
earlier than England. The French, as did those in many other countries, had
celebrated the New Year by donning a new set of clothes and going visiting
from house to house since it was also a celebration of spring, the longer
days and better weather. After the change to the January New Year, the
French continued to observe the tradition, which they observed on the lst
day of April, only they started a mockery of the change by coming to the
door and yelling "Poisson d'avril" when their friends opened the door. April
fish carried the connotation of a spring or young (hence foolish or easily
caught) fish. This tradition caught on in other parts of Europe and in
England it was called April Fool's (rather than April Fish) Day. To catch
one unawares on that day now is to make them an April fool.
When England changed to the January 1st date (adopted the new calendar in
1752 but by then there were 11 days difference because 1700 had been a leap
year), they continued to celebrate Lady Day as it had been the traditional
religious feast day and original New Year's Day.
Thus the connection among the Kurdish New Year, Lady Day and April Fool's
The English New Year continued as March 25th until the full adoption of the
Gregorian calendar in 1752. Thus the day after 24 March 1688 was 25 March
1689. The day after 31 December 1703 was 1 January 1703. You may find
pockets of variation in parts of England though from 1582 to 1752 but often
you will find records during this period written 1 January 1703/4 and in
fact, some programs like Legacy and Family Tree Maker adjust the dates for
you between January 1 and March 24th for the years until 1752. This is not
to be confused with a date written as 1803-1804, which means the year is
In some journal recently, an author of an article proposed that one should
not choose a program that does not adjust these dates for you as "no
self-respecting genealogical program" would fail to make these adjustments.
However, this dating to adjust to the British systems is not only confusing
but may also be wrong if the dates you are using are not of English origin.
The Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March, which was popular in the ninth
century in parts of southern Europe (around Rome), but only became
widespread in Europe in the eleventh century and not in England until the
late twelfth. However, different countries and regions started to change to
the first of January with Venice in 1522 even before the Gregorian calendar
and others as follows:
1556 Spain, Portugal, Roman Catholic Netherlands
1559 Prussia, Denmark, Sweden
1583 Protestant Netherlands
1752 England and colonies
Also just because they changed to the January 1 New Year did not mean they
made the full 10 or 11 day adjustment. In fact, those that changed before
1582 had to make another adjustment to reflect the missing days. Remember if
the change after 1700 the adjustment was 11 days to reflect the leap year.
Thus Germany did not accept the full change until 1700 and Sweden not until
Even though Russia accepted the beginning of the year in 1725 and the change
to adjust the 11 days in 1918, the Eastern Orthodox Church (Ukrainian/Greek
Orthodox) adopted the beginning of the year between 1924 and 1927 they never
accepted the change of the 11 days to the set feast days and beginning of
the year (e.g. Christmas and New Years are 11 days different between the Old
Style Julian and the New Style or Gregorian calendars).
From 1918 to 1924 Russia tried their own revolutionary calendar following
the example of the French revolutionary government. France had adopted a
completely unique calendar called the French Republican Calendar during the
Jacobean government's post revolution First Republic (enacted October 5,
1793 and went into actual use on November 24, 1793) until Napoleon
reinstituted the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1806.
From 1564 to 1763 French Canadian records will reflect the dates according
to the full Gregorian including beginning of the year while British and US
records will not until 1752. Then if your French ancestors vital stats
occurred in France between November 24, 1793 to December 31, 1805 you may
find they were born on such dates such as 10 Nivose 13 or even may have been
reset to the first date of the first Republic, which retroactively began
1/1/1 or primidi Vendemiaire year 1, which happens to be September 22, 1792
according to Gregorian Calendar. The French abolished the "unscientific"
calendar and reset the beginning of their year to the Autumn Equinox to
coincide roughly with the beginning of their Republican Regime.
So we not only have to contend with different beginnings of the year and a
lost 10 or 11 days but we may have even stranger dates to convert.
Xenia Stanford (president@...)
A.G.E. Ancestree Genealogical Enterprises
Column: "Nos Racines Francaise" http://globalgazette.net/
Local book and magazine sales: http://www.knowmap.com/age/
Phone: (403) 295-3490; Fax: (403) 274-0564