The adoption of the Gregorian Calendar was an event in the modern history of most cultures and societies, marking a change from their traditional (or old style) dating system to the modern (or new style) dating system, the Gregorian calendar, that is widely used around the world today. Some states adopted the new calendar from 1582, some did not do so before the early twentieth century, and others did so at various dates between; however a number continue to use a different civil calendar. For many the new style calendar is only used for civil purposes and the old style calendar remains used in religious contexts. Today, the Gregorian calendar is the world’s most widely used civil calendar. During – and for some time after – the change between systems, it has been common to use the terms Old Style and New Style when giving dates, to indicate which calendar was used to reckon them.
The Gregorian calendar was decreed in 1582 by the papal bull Inter gravissimas by Pope Gregory XIII, to correct an error in the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar had been based upon a year lasting 365.25 days, but this was slightly too long; in reality it is about 365.2422 days, and so over the centuries, the calendar was increasingly out of alignment with the earth’s orbit.
Reasons for adopting the Gregorian Calendar
There were two reasons to establish the Gregorian calendar. First, the Julian calendar assumed incorrectly that the average solar year is exactly 365.25 days long, an overestimate of a little under one day per century, and thus has a leap year every four years without exception. The Gregorian reform shortened the average (calendar) year by 0.0075 days to stop the drift of the calendar with respect to the equinoxes. Second, in the years since the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325, the excess leap days introduced by the Julian algorithm had caused the calendar to drift such that the (Northern) spring equinox was occurring well before its nominal 21 March date. This date was important to the Christian churches because it is fundamental to the calculation of the date of Easter. To reinstate the association, the reform advanced the date by 10 days: Thursday 4 October 1582 was followed by Friday 15 October 1582. In addition, the reform also altered the lunar cycle used by the Church to calculate the date for Easter, because astronomical new moons were occurring four days before the calculated dates. It is notable that whilst the reform introduced minor changes, the calendar continued to be fundamentally based on the same geocentric theory as its predecessor.
The reform was adopted initially by the Catholic countries of Europe and their overseas possessions. Over the next three centuries, the Protestant and Eastern Orthodox countries also moved to what they called the Improved calendar, with Greece being the last European country to adopt the calendar (for civil use only) in 1923.
Here’s a list of dates when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted by various countries/areas.
|1582||Spain, Portugal, France, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Italy, Catholic Low Countries, Luxembourg, and colonies thereof|
|1584||Kingdom of Bohemia, some Catholic Swiss cantons|
|1700||Protestant Low Countries, Norway, Denmark, some Protestant Swiss cantons|
|1752||Great Britain, Ireland, and the “First” British Empire (1707–1783)|
|1753||Sweden and Finland|
|1926||Turkey (common era years; Gregorian dates in use since 1917 Ottoman adoption)|