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of three hundred and sixty-six days; and that the additional day in each fourth year was added to the month of February.
Mr. Constance. Exactly so: and the fourth year is called Bissextile, (b) or Leap Year, from its leaping over a day more of time in that year than in a common year. Although the alteration by Julius Csesar was very important, it was not exactly correct; for, by after calculation, the solar year (or the time in which the earth makes its journey round the sun) was found to be not three hundred and sixty-five days, six hours, but three hundred and sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes, and fortyeight seconds. Therefore, the Julian year must have exceeded the solar year by eleven minutes, twelve seconds; which, in about a hundred and thirty years, amounted to a whole day; and as this imperfection was not observed for several hundred years, it was found, in the year 1582, that ten days had accumulated. For more than a century previous to this period, however, great complaints were made by scientific men, that the year did not keep pace with the course of the sun: but, from various causes, the necessary alteration was protracted until the fifteenth century, when Pope Gregory XIII. had the honour of executing what several preceding pontiffs and councils had so long attempted in vain. He invited to Rome a considerable number of mathematicians and astronomers, employed ten years in the examination of their several formules; and, finally, gave the preference to the plan proposed by Aloisius and Antonius Lilius, two brothers of Verona. He transmitted copies of the plan in 1577 to all the Catholic states, and the learned academies at that time existing. A council of the most learned prelates was convened, and a brief was published in the month of March, A.D. 1582, by which the use of the old calendar was entirely abrogated, in all countries over which his holiness had any sway, and the new one substituted in its stead.
Maria. Pray how was the alteration effected? I suppose there was another year of confusion.
Mr. Constance. Yes, there was; and as Julius Caesar had found it necessary to make a long year, so Pope Gregory thought it expedient to make a short one, and therefore deducted ten days from the month of October of the year then current, which rectified the error; and by ordaining that every four hundredth year should take an additional day, he brought the register of time so close to the solar year, as not to admit of a day's variation in five thousand 3'ears.
Mrs. Constance. As there can be no reasonable prospect of further improvement, it is to be hoped no other alteration will be attempted, since it must occasion considerable inconvenience; more particularly as it is impossible for one nation to compel another to accede to what that one may conceive an amendment.
Mr. Constance. Your remark is very just, and is exemplified in the slow progress which the amended system made; for although it was instantly adopted in all Catholic countries, it was not until the year 1700, that the reformation of the Calendar was introduced into the Protestant states of Germany and Denmark. In Sweden it did not obtain until March 1753. Indeed, so reluctant are people generally to amend an error, or to turn from established and ancient customs, that it was not until the year last mentioned, (near two hundred years after the correction of the erroneous calculation,) that this country acceded to follow the new style; when an Act of Parliament, obtained by the then Earl of Macclesfield, ordered the ten days which had been expunged by Pope Gregory, and an additional day which, since his time, had accrued, to b« taken out of our Calendar; which was done by reckoning the 3d of September as the 14th, whereby that month consisted of only nineteen days in that year. In Russia they even now follow the Julian, or old style, in preference to the Gregorian, or new style; and are therefore twelve days after us in their date of time, and the observance of fixed festivals. Having now, I hope, explained, in such a manner as to be understood by our young friends, this important alteration in the computation of time, and made you familiar with the terms new- and old style, which you sometimes hear in the present day, I shall now request our friend William to proceed, and give us an account of the remarkable days in the month of January.
William. The first festival is held on this day, and is called the Circumcision. It was ordained in grateful remembrance of our Lord's ready submission to the ceremonial rites of the Jewish church. On the day of circumcision, every male child of the Jews received his name, as among Christians they do on the day of baptism; and on this day our Saviour publicly received the name of Jesus, which had before been given to him by the angel who appeared to the Virgin Mary at Nazareth, and announced the birth of her heavenly infant. The first mention of the day being observed, is in 487; but it was not included in our Liturgy until 1550. You are also aware that the 1st of this month is known by the term New-year's Day.
Angelina. Yes: and one of the most agreeable and heart-cheering customs is the giving and receiving a complimentary present from our friends and acquaintances on this day. The interchange of civilities and kind offices naturally creates the most pleasing sensations, which lead to hilarity and good humour, and tend to keep up the spirits in gloomy weather. To me, every season and every month has its pleasures: blessed with health, kind and affectionate parents, and a numerous circle of friends who are dear to me, I am in the enjoyment of every blessing that I need; but I think there is nothing so pleasing—nothing that carries with it so much of cordiality and sincere friendship, as the giving or receiving of a New-year's gift, -with the accompanying wish—" A happy new year." I always look for this day with emotions of pleasure.
Mrs. Constance. I am glad to hear my dear girl so express herself, and could wish that the custom, the good old custom of giving and receiving presents on this day, were more general than it is; but that which was common amongst all classes, in former times, has now dwindled into insignificance, and is seldom practised but in trifling instances.
Mr. Constance. "That nothing contributes more to virtue than cheerful and friendly intercourse, (says Mr. Brady, in his Calendaria,) has often been pointed out by the best moral writers; therefore; the abolition of these opportunities for one fellow-creature to testify, in words, his respect and esteem for another, or to present some token of his affectionate remembrance, must be observed with regret by all those who wish to promote domestic happiness." The opening of the new year by some festivity has been a custom from time immemorial. It has been traced to the Egyptians; the Jews followed the example; and the Greeks and Romans continued it. And although the heathen nations appear to have had various methods of computing the year, some counting six months, others ten, and some only reckoning by moons, yet they all agreed in paying homage to the first or opening day. New-year's day, or, according to the Roman phraseology, the Calends of January, was remarkable for the compliments paid to each other by that people. The Agonalia, or festival of Janus, took place on this day; presents were sent round among friends, with wishes of health and prosperity. Clerks and freedmen also sent presents to their patrons; while gifts were presented by the people to their governors; and this custom was as ancient as the time of Romulus. The magistrates of Rome came into office on that day; the artisans began any new work which they had to perform, though they might only work a little upon it for good fortune, and then lay it aside. In short, all nations concurred in celebrating this season with such ceremonies as to their minds appeared appropriate; and never closed the day without visiting and congratulating each other, and offering up vows to their deities for mutual preservation. Nor is this at all surprising, when we consider the peculiar charms of the entrance of a new year: the lengthening days, the Earth about to rise from the cheerless sleep of Winter, the exhilarating feelings at the anticipation of Spring, the incipient song of birds, the increasing sunshine, are all calculated to repress sad thoughts, by the grateful sensations they inspire. The greetings and winecups which usher in the new year are not wholly empty ceremonies. The division of time entered upon has a thousand hopes on its wings:—we are dependent upon it for many things which we have to achieve, or which we promise ourselves will be achieved for us,—making the new year a season of " vernal delight and joy."
Maria. There is now more regard paid to this day in France, especially in the capital, I believe, than in any other country. I have understood that it is a general holyday, and visits to friends and relations are made early in the morning, when compliments pass, and presents of sweetmeats and other trifles are made. The shops of the confectioners also make a very gay appearance, with their festoons of silk and muslin, ribands and flowers. The counters are covered with dried fruits, cakes, sweetmeats, and numberless other things formed into castles, pyramids, columns, or any form which the taste of the proprietor may suggest, There are also a number of little boxes or baskets