I really would like to begin this post by wishing you all, our prodigious readers, a Happy New Year. But I’m not going to. It’s not that I’m entering in to 2013 with any particular trepidation, and I’m certainly not what one might refer to as “a grump”. However, I’ve got two very good reasons why I will NOT be wishing you a Happy New Year from this blog.
In an effort to maintain a clear separation from the Pope and all things Romish, seventeenth-century England retained the Old Style, Julian calendar. Naturally, (or not) this means the year started on March 25th. So you can (and rightly so) expect your New Year wishes from me then. I’m not going to go into the technicalities of the dates here, but if you’re interested, I did find this fantastic article that explains it all very succinctly. Details notwithstanding, what you do need to know is that because most of the other countries in Europe began using the New Style, Gregorian calendar in 1582 in obedience to Pope Gregory XIII, and because the first day of January was (confusingly) also commonly referred to as New Year’s Day in England, record keepers would often double date. No, I don’t mean they went out for dinner two record keeping couples at a time…Rather that between January 1st and March 24th of each year, both years would be noted. As an example, imagine we still observe the Old Style calendar here in Massachusetts. Today would be January 8th, 2012/13. In 1752, when England and her colonies finally agreed to disagree on which was the best calendar, the two systems were 11 days off (this has something to do with the solar year and how it was calculated slightly wrong…again, see this article). So in order to get in line with those on the Continent, September 2nd, 1752 was swiftly followed by September 14th. I, for one, feel sorry for the people who missed their birthdays that year.
Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day? Well, just like February 2nd repeats in perpetuity for Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors, in the lives of your favourite Colonial Interpreters, it’s 1620/21 or 1626/27 again. We have come full circle and are beginning our preparations for the start of the 2013 season. Once again, it’s March 24th, 1620/21 on-board Mayflower II. There, we will hope that 1621 has better fortune in store for us. We’ll talk about how we’ll feel when the ship finally leaves the safety of Plymouth harbour and returns to England. Whoever is playing Elizabeth Winslow will be in a perpetual state of almost dead (she dies that day). We will, as always, bemoan our rapidly depleting beer supplies. In the English Village, we will elect a governor (I’m not a gambling man, but my money’s on Bradford). We’ll divide the cattle amongst the families and complain about the shipwrecked, Virginia-bound gentlemen we have to give hospitality to. We will gossip excitedly about the arrival of Issack De Rasieres, his men and a gift of Holland Cheese from Fort Amsterdam. They’re familiar tales to we who have lived through them more than once, but to the characters we play and to our visitors, it’s headline news. And as I always say, old news is good news – at least to a history nerd!
But wait….there’s more exciting, NEW news! We have a mill!
The Plimoth Grist Mill will be opening this spring along with our other sites…I’m sure there will be much more on this later!
With that, I’ll welcome in 2013 with the (slightly underwhelming) words of Master Bradford himself:
“…and thus passed the affairs of this year”.