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Today is not New Year's Eve - or the end of the decade

El Reg apologises for era error

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El Reg would like to apologise to all its readers for the recent spate of ill-timed end of the decade articles, which it, along with the rest of the media have been tacking on to the close of 2009.

In fact, the end of the first decade of the 21st century does not take place until the year 2010. Or 2004 if a more accurate reckoning is made of the current date.

However, following an impulse toward religious schism – and mindful of the fact that those who work in IT have very little interest in a calendar that pedantically nails the seasons to the same month and day, year in year out - we are inclined to propose that the true end of this decade will actually take place on 6 April 2011. Or may already have taken place on that day in 2005.

Tying the end of the decade to 2009 is a simple enough misunderstanding, brought about by a belief in some quarters that the current western epoch, variously designated as "Anno Domini" (AD) or "Common Era" (CE) started in 0 AD. Not so.

The year 1 BC was followed immediately afterward by 1 AD: there never was a year zero – at least not in our calendar. It is therefore a matter of easy calculation to determine that the real end of the decade follows in 365 days time – and is not tonight.

Of course, that is only so if we accept two further reforms to the calendar which, in England, both took place in the 18th century. Until 1582, almost all of Western Europe (and the American Colonies) used the Julian Calendar – a system put in place by Julius Caesar in 46 BC or thereabouts.

The problem with this calendar was that it lost approximately one day with respect to the tropical year, every 128 years. By the time the 16th century rolled around, the calendar was running almost ten days "slow" – a matter of supposed serious import for an agrarian economy.

(Though some might question whether a society that lived in such close harmony with the land would attempt to match its sowing cycles to a theoretical best date set 1500 years previous – as opposed to "the same date as last year").

In February 1582, Pope Gregory XIII put forward a papal bull proposing the adoption of a new calendar:invented by Aloysius Lilius, a physician from Naples, this would forever after be known as the Gregorian Calendar. The main difference between the Gregorian and Julian calendars is that the former only allows for leap years to take place in century years that are themselves divisible by four: so 1700, 1800 and 1900 were NOT leap years; and 2000 was.

Whilst the Gregorian calendar may have had some minor positive impact on agriculture, there can be little reason to maintain such a system when the alleged effects of global warming appear to be moving the onset of winter backward and forward by several days at a time – and the majority of the population do not work on the land in any case.

We say: bring back the Julian calendar. Not only would this liberate our diaries from the dead hand of a medieval Pope: it would also make today 18 December – allowing us all to look forward to Christmas again in a week’s time!

Until 1700, the start of the year in England was, for all civil and legal purposes, the 25 March. Pressure from New Year revellers led to a shift in the agreed start date back to 1 January – thereby creating a source of confusion that has bedevilled historians ever since. Events occurring before 25 March before 1700 may be allocated to one of two different years according to whether they are recorded "New Style" (NS) or "Old Style"(OS).

A return to the old civil system would do away with such confusion once and for all – and put an end to argument over whether King Charles was beheaded in 1648 (OS) or 1649 (NS).

Which brings us back to the start. Using the Julian calendar and reverting to the old civil year, the next decade does not start until 7 April 2011.

QED ®

Bootnote:

The above only holds if we accept the calculation of 1 AD as having been accurate in the first place. Unfortunately, the year adopted as the start of our current era by scholar Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century is almost certainly the wrong one. If we know anything about the birth date of Jesus Christ it was, according to the gospels, during the reign of King Herod – who had already been dead for four years in 1 BC.

Modern experts prefer 7BC, or thereabouts, as Jesus’ birth day – which means that today is actually 18 December 2015.

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