The term 'year' comes, surprisingly enough, from the Saxon word "jear," meaning seasons. The ancient Saxons observed just two seasons: Summer, when the days were longer than the nights; and Winter, when the nights were longer than the days.
The length of the year is actually determined by the time it takes for the earth to make one complete revolution around the sun. We now know this to be 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 49 and seven-tenths of a second.
However, the rotation of the sun and moon are not synchronized. A lunar year was comprised of 12 'sidereal' months, each of which took 27 and one-half days to complete.
That created a conflict, for while the sidereal year lasted 354 days, 8 hours long, a solar year lasted about 365¼ days. That meant that after three years, the two calendars would be off by 33 days.
Therefore, the Saxons used instead a calendar comprised of twelve 'synodic' months (which combined lunar and solar observations) that measures the month as the time between one 'new' moon and the next. The synodic month took 29 and one-half days to complete.
The Babylonians and then the Jews went one step further and created a 19 year-long cycle in which seven of the 19 years had 19 months instead of 12 in order to account for the difference in lunar and solar cycles.
The Egyptians' calendar had 12 periods of 30 days each, for a total of 360 days per year. About 4000 B.C. they added five extra days to match the solar year. These five days became a festival because it was thought to be unlucky to work during that time.
It was a custom in ancient Rome to proclaim the first of the month as a time when people might be apprised of the religious festivals in which they would expected to participate.
Therefore, the first day of the Roman month came to be called the "Kalendae" or "Kalend". Shortly thereafter, it became popular to record these days in a book called a Calendarium. From this practice we acquired our "Calendar."
The Saxon Kings, meanwhile, recorded the phases of the moon, such as new or full, by carving them on a foot long stick which they called an "al-mon-aght." From this crude record, we get the name for our "Almanac."
In 46 B.C., Emperor Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar. First, he decreed the year 46 B.C., would have 445 days to achieve alignment with the solar year. Beginning in 45 B.C., he decreed that every fourth year should have 366 days in the new Julian calendar.
Pope Gregory XIII decreed on February 24, 1582 that Caesar's adjustments were incorrect, and that the 5th of October would now become the 15th of October. Furthermore, an extra day would be dropped from the calendar three times every 400 years.
This Gregorian calendar was not adopted in the British Empire and it's colonies until Wednesday, September 2, 1752 when the British Calendar Act of 1751 went into effect. At this time, it was declared that the next day, Thursday, would be September 14, 1752 instead of September 3.
While the Julian calendar was off by ten days from the solar year when the Gregorian calendar was adopted, if one used the new Gregorian calendar it would take 3,323 years to amass a difference of just one day from the solar year.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger firstname.lastname@example.org