Voice 1: In 1752, something very strange happened in England. Everyone went to bed and fell asleep on the night of Wednesday, September 2nd.
Voice 2: But when they woke up the following morning, it was Thursday, September 14th. Had the whole country been asleep for eleven days and nights?
Voice 1: There was confusion and chaos the length and breadth of the land. Very few members of the population knew what had happened. There was no radio, TV or internet to explain what was going on and very few members of the general public could read the newspapers or notices posted on walls. But the fact that eleven days had gone missing from the calendar quickly spread by word of mouth, and in some towns and villages there were riots with people demanding 'Give us our days back!'
Voice 2: What had happened was that the government in London had passed a law in 1750 to introduce a new style of calendar in Britain. Until 1752, the English had followed the Julian calendar introduced by Julius Caesar during the Roman occupation in 46 BC.
Voice 1: But the Julian calendar wasn't perfectly accurate, and every 128 years there was an error of one day. This is because back in 46 BC, a solar year had been miscalculated by 11 minutes. The calendar year did not match the solar year.
Voice 2: In 1582, Pope Gregory the Thirteenth and his astronomers and mathematicians in Rome created a new, more accurate calendar known as the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar was ditched. Soon, all the countries of Western Europe were on the new style calendar. All except good old England whose government wanted to continue doing its own thing.
Voice 1: The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar based on a 365-day year divided into twelve months. Each month consists of either 30 or 31 days with one month, February, consisting of 28 days. A leap year every 4 years adds an extra day to February. And each new year began on a January 1, not on March 25th. Sound familiar? The Gregorian calendar is still the calendar we use today.
Voice 2: The first country to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1582 was France, followed by Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Turkey was the last country to officially switch to the new calendar on January 1, 1927.
Voice 1: The Calendar Act of 1750 introduced the Gregorian calendar to Britain, bringing things in line with Western Europe. It took a long time for people in England to accept that their lives had not been shortened by eleven days.
Voice 2: But not everyone was unhappy about the new calendar. A man called William Willett, who understood what was going on, bet his friends that he could dance non-stop from September 2nd to September 14th. Everyone thought he was crazy, so they placed their bets.
Voice 1: On the evening of September 2nd, he started to dance around the village where he lived. The following morning, September 14th, he stopped dancing and claimed his bets. He had suddenly become one of the richest men in the village.