Lady Day

Lady Day

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In the western Liturgical year
Liturgical year
The liturgical year, also known as the church year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches which determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read. Distinct liturgical colours may appear in...

, Lady Day is the traditional name of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (25 March) in some English speaking countries. It is the first of the four traditional English quarter days
Quarter days
In British and Irish tradition, the quarter days were the four dates in each year on which servants were hired, and rents were due. They fell on four religious festivals roughly three months apart and close to the two solstices and two equinoxes....

. The "Lady" was the Virgin Mary. The term derives from Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

, when some nouns lost their genitive inflections. "Lady" would later gain an -s genitive ending, and therefore the name means "Lady's day."

Non-religious significance


In England, Lady Day was New Year's Day
New Year's Day
New Year's Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar used in ancient Rome...

 up to 1752 when, following the move from the Julian Calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 to the Gregorian Calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

, 1 January became the start of the year. A vestige of this remains in the United Kingdom's tax year, which starts on 6 April, i.e. Lady Day adjusted for the lost days of the calendar change (until this change Lady Day had been used as the start of the legal year). (The liturgical and calendar years should be distinguished. 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
Yule
Yule or Yuletide is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January...

.)

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. As a result, farming families who were changing farms would travel from the old farm to the new one on Lady Day. After the calendar change, "Old Lady Day" (6 April), the former date of the Annunciation, largely assumed this role. The date is significant in some of the works of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

, e.g., Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented, also known as Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman, Tess of the d'Urbervilles or just Tess, is a novel by Thomas Hardy, first published in 1891. It initially appeared in a censored and serialised version, published by the British...

and Far From the Madding Crowd
Far from the Madding Crowd
Far from the Madding Crowd is Thomas Hardy's fourth novel and his first major literary success. It originally appeared anonymously as a monthly serial in Cornhill Magazine, where it gained a wide readership. Critical notices were plentiful and mostly positive...

.

The logic of using Lady Day as the start of the year is that it roughly coincides with Equinox
Equinox
An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth's equator...

 (when the length of day and night is equal); many ancient cultures still use this time as the start of the new year, for example, the Iranian new year. In some traditions it also reckons years A.D. from the moment of the Annunciation
Annunciation
The Annunciation, also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary or Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus the Son of God. Gabriel told Mary to name her...

, which is considered to take place at the moment of the conception of Jesus at the Annunciation rather than at the moment of his birth at Christmas.

See also

  • New Year
    New Year
    The New Year is the day that marks the time of the beginning of a new calendar year, and is the day on which the year count of the specific calendar used is incremented. For many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner....

  • International Women's Day
    International Women's Day
    International Women's Day , originally called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and...

     — 8 March
  • Mother's Day
    Mother's Day
    Mother's Day is a celebration honoring mothers and celebrating motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, yet most commonly in March, April, or May...

  • Mothering Sunday
    Mothering Sunday
    Mothering Sunday is a Christian festival celebrated throughout Europe that falls on the 4th Sunday in Lent. Secularly it became a celebration of motherhood. It is increasingly being called Mother's Day, although in countries other than the UK and Ireland that holiday has other origins...

  • National Women's Day
    National Women's Day
    National Women's Day is an annual public holiday in South Africa on August 9. This commemorates the national march of women on this day in 1956 to petition against legislation that required African persons to carry the "pass", special identification documents which curtailed an African's freedom of...