December 19, 2012

In 46 CE, Julius Caesar revolutionized the calendar system by adopting and authorizing the use of the Julian calendar. This moved the start of the new year from March 25th to January 1st. However, Julius neglected to consider the fact that the solar year (how long it takes the Earth to revolve around the Sun) is actually 365.25 days long. While this difference only amounts to 11 minutes and 14 seconds every year, with every passing year that small amount of time compounded and increasing the gap between the dates on the Julian calendar and the astronomical events and seasonal changes of the solar year. For example, in 45 BCE spring equinox fell on March 25. By the time the Council of Nicea met in 325 CE to determine the date of Easter, the spring equinox was falling on March 21st.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII established a new calendar which took into consideration the 11 minute and 14 second difference, calling it the Gregorian calendar which we follow today. However with this change, Pope Gregory decreed that ten days be eliminated from the calendar year of 1582, making it so that October 5th was followed by October 15th. This brought the spring equinox back to March 21, the date it fell on during the Council of Nicea. This also, however, brought the date of Christmas from January 7th to December 25th.

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