The Gregorian Calendar

The Gregorian calendar, not the Jessica Alba swimsuit calendar, is the most widely used calendar in the world today.  That makes it kind of important.  The Gregorian calendar dates back to 1582 when Pope Gregory made eleven days in October just plain disappear.  I swear.

Seems the entire world was out of whack back then because our previous calendar, the Julian calendar, was slightly askew and getting more askew all the time.  As a result, the world was eleven days slow by the time October 4, 1582 rolled around.  This was kind of important, as I understand it, because you really want Easter to fall on the right day.  Apparently, all the other holidays can drift around from day to day without papal interference, but Easter?  You don’t mess with Easter.

So Gregory bumped everything forward instantly from October 4 to October 15 and everyone with a birthday from the fifth to the fourteenth got royally hosed.  There was, in fact, a minor revolt of those people – something called the Candle Blowers Insurgence – but it was crushed by Gregorian monks who were in no mood for funny business.

As a result of all this leaping over of days, the calendar was restored to its appropriate trim and reset to a 400 year clock.  Bet you didn’t know that part.  The leap year thing that Gregory started is widely recognized, but leap years alone are not enough to keep us on course.  We need extra adjustments.

Every four years is a leap year.  That’s common knowledge.  Less well recognized is the fact that those leap years are on the years that are divisible by four.  1969, not a leap year.  1972, definitely a leap year.

Now here’s where it gets complicated.

Every time you hit a century, even though the century numbers like 1900 and 2100 are always divisible by four, those years are NOT leap years … unless the number is also divisible by 400.  Still with me?  So, 2000 was a leap year, but 2100, the next century year, will not be a leap year.

All this effort, however, still leaves us an imperfect calendar.  Every 2500 years, we end up a full day behind the right time for Easter.  At some point, therefore, probably around the year 4082, a future pope like Pope Tyler IV or Pope Dakota IX will have to bump us forward straight from October 4 to October 6 and that will be a complete tragedy because our distant inheritors in the Fifth Millenium will watch 1/365th of their potential vanish in a stroke of the papal pen.  They will have to cram all 365 days of their ambitions and dreams into a miserly 364 days.

I’m glad I won’t be there to suffer the loss of a day to the imperfectly coordinated rotation of the Earth or orbit of the Earth around the sun or whatever the issue is.  I’m glad I won’t be there because time is far too precious to have twenty-four hours of it swallowed in a “papal bull” which is what popes use to make days disappear.  Of course, we now have e-mail, so maybe technology is making the “bull” as communications vehicle a little obsolete.  I don’t know exactly what a “bull” is (other than a cow with a set of horns and a Big Lebowski) but it’s probably some sort of document or whathaveyou, like maybe a really big poster or perhaps a parchment with sealing wax which I thought for the longest time was actually “ceiling” wax like you might use it to fill a crack around a light fixture or patch some water damage.

And what that tells you is that there is much to learn in this life and not nearly enough time to learn it, much less enough time in which to accomplish all that there is to be accomplished, so what the hell is with all these popes taking our days away?  Let us have a full 365 days every year to accomplish 365 days’ worth of stuff.  If that means that some day in the distant future we have to celebrate Easter with the Christmas tree still in the living room, so be it.

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