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Ask Marilyn: Clearing Up the Confusion About Washington's Birthday
Lorinda Bale of Murrieta, California, writes:
Marilyn: A reader attempted to refute your statement that George Washington's birthday in our current (Gregorian) calendar is reckoned as being in the year 1732, but was in the year 1731 in the old (Julian) calendar that was in use at the time of Washington's birth. (January 28, 2013) Of course, you (and the National Archives) are correct, but you didn't explain why the years are different!
The reason is that under the Julian calendar, England and her colonies (including the American colonies) considered people born between January 1 and March 24, inclusive, to have been born in the previous year, for legal purposes. Washington, who was born on February 11 according to the Julian calendar then in use, was one of those people. Back then, the legal year began on March 25 even though the calendar year began on January 1. Thus, Washington was born in the legal year 1731, even though the calendar read 1732.
Regarding the eleven days "lost": When England and her colonies converted to the Gregorian calendar, they went directly from September 2, 1752, to September 14, 1752. The days of September 3 through 13, 1752, were stricken from the calendar, but many people thought they had lost these eleven days from their lives.
Thank you, Lorinda. Today, children all over the country would be lamenting their missed birthday parties, too!
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