Sunday, November 02, 2008

Question from Mrs GC - New Year

Howdy - did the Tudors celebrate the New Year on January 1, or on March 24 (I think that's the date).

I read that the old Tudor calendar considered March 24 as the day of the New Year, but they seemed to have had their celebrations and gift-giving in January.

And did continental Europeans at that time celebrate on January 1 or March 24?

[ed note - this was mostly covered in the thread below, but I'm curious about the continental courts and whether New Year was the big celebration that it was in England... I'm woefully under-educated on the other Renaissance courts]


Anonymous said...

The Julian calendar was in exsistence during the Tudor era which meant the Tudor people celebrated the beginnig of the year on march the 24th. It was not until the gregorian calendar was introduced by pope Gregory xIII in1582 the elizabethan era that the beginning of the year started January the 1st.But even this was not fully recognized until 1750.

Foose said...

I've been looking for some information on this but the best I can do is some points I picked up from The Oxford Companion on the Year.

It would seem that England was something of an anomaly in using March 24 as its alternative date of the new year. The ancient Romans had exchanged strenae, or gifts, on January 1, and this custom appears to have continued on the Continent. The word used in England specifically for New Year's gifts, etrennes, comes from the French and is a descendant of strenae. This indicates that the gift exchange on New Year's may have come from the Continental practice in France.

I went through a lot of contemporary sources and I can't find that Henry ever gave New Year's gifts to another sovereign. The gifts seem to have been something exchanged between monarch and subjects. The records are quite clear that it was on January 1 that the gifts were presented; there's usually a huge list of the items, quantities, etc., listed for Jan 1 or Jan 2. March 24 seems to have been a day of regular business, with Henry and his subordinates writing and receiving letters, etc., although the following day, March 25, usually has no item of business recorded (at least through the 1520s), probably because it was the Feast of the Annunciation.

Foose said...

It seems that until the second half of the 16th century, France followed a calendar similar to England's (where the year began on March 24, although "New Year's Day" was always January 1); in "A Popular History of France," by Emile de Bonnechose, it is noted:

"... by a decree of 1563, he[Chancellor Michel de l'Hopital] caused it to be settled that the year, which, until then, had commenced at Easter, should begin on the first of January."