Monday, 25 March 2019

Lady Day in Dorset

I'm up bright and early on Dorset's highest hill, looking out across the vale to a hazy coast, at around about twenty past seven.


This is a 'no filter' photo from my phone. It's wonderful up here this morning, with no-one else about.

On the top of the world, looking down on creation.

It's Lady Day today, and also my only brother's birthday. Two important events in my family's calendar over the years: the latter because he is the Golden Child, the only male in a gaggle of females, and the former because it's the traditional day for farm tenancies to change.

As children, we were brought up on a county council smallholding in Somerset, so Lady Day has always been part of my inner make up. It's the first of the four traditional English quarter days (the others being Midsummer, Michaelmas and Christmas Day). It's called Lady Day because it marks the Feast of the Annunciation, which celebrates the Angel Gabriel's announcement to the Virgin Mary that not only was she expecting a baby but that he was the Christ.

I've just looked up Lady Day on Wikipedia and it's fascinating:

In England, Lady Day was New Year's Day from 1155 until 1752, when the Gregorian calendar was adopted and with it the first of January as the official start of the year.[1] A vestige of this remains in the United Kingdom's tax year, which starts on 6 April, or "New Lady Day", i.e., Lady Day adjusted for the 11 lost days of the calendar change. Until this change Lady Day had been used as the start of the legal year. This should be distinguished from the liturgical and historical year. It appears that in England and Wales, from at least the late 14th century, New Year's Day was celebrated on 1 January as part of Yule.[2]
As a year-end and quarter day that conveniently did not fall within or between the seasons for ploughing and harvesting, Lady Day was a traditional day on which year-long contracts between landowners and tenant farmers would begin and end in England and nearby lands (although there were regional variations). Farmers' time of "entry" into new farms and onto new fields was often this day.[3][4] As a result, farming families who were changing farms would travel from the old farm to the new one on Lady Day. In 1752 England finally followed western Europe in switching to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian calendar. The Julian lagged 11 days behind the Gregorian, and hence 25 March ("Old Lady Day") became 6 April ("New Lady Day"), which assumed the role of fiscal and contractual year-beginning. (The date is significant in some of the works of Thomas Hardy, such as Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd, and is discussed in his 1884 essay The Dorset Farm Labourer).
You learn something new every day.

So have a wonderful Lady Day and, if you're my brother, have a great birthday.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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