Did you know that March 25 used to mark the beginning of the new year in Britain and in her North American colonies? Rebecca Onion explains why in The Boston Globe. Here is an excerpt from her fascinating essay:
This March 25 will likely pass quietly, another chilly Tuesday in early spring. But in the Boston of 300 years ago, the day would have been very noteworthy indeed: It marked the start of the new calendar year. The Colonists, as Britain had for centuries, celebrated the change of the year in late March—the Feast of the Annunciation, or Lady Day. Rents were due, contracts began, and obligations renewed on March 25, the “New Year.” *** Under the Julian system, New Year’s tended to vary from country to country; Britain preferred to mark it on March 25, a Christian holiday, rather than the original Roman New Year’s Day of Jan. 1. (March 25 was traditionally the date when Mary found out about her pregnancy, and familiarly known as “Lady Day.”) So through the 1600s and into the 1700s, continental Europeans had agreed to turn their calendars over on Jan. 1, but the British world continued to mark the beginning of a civil and legal year three months later.