Happy French Republican New Year

Welcome to the year 219! Well, that’s what it is according to the French Republican Calendar. Never heard of it? Well, when your country  has a major cultural revolution, one of the first things to do is to get rid of all the symbols of the old regime. In the case of the French Revolution, this included creating a whole new calendar. The calendar was designed by a commission of scientists, artists and a gardener all under the direction of politician Charles Gilbert Romme.

Now, what makes the calendar so much fun is that rather than just rename the months, they also rearranged how months were organized. The calendar starts on  September 22nd, 1792, the date that the French Republic was formally proclaimed. Each month consisted of exactly thirty days which were divided into three weeks, each of which consisted of ten days.

The twelve months were each given names that were appropriate to their seasons. For example, the three Summer months were Messidor (from Latin messis, “harvest”), Thermidor (from Greek thermon, “summer heat”) and Fructidor (from Latin fructus, “fruit”). The British naturally found the names rather funny and soon came up with their own alternate names for each month. In England these summer months were jokingly referred to as “Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety.”

Finally, you may be asking how the calendar came to a full 365 days if it consisted of twelve 30-day months? Well, at the end of the year there were five days of celebration leading up to the New Year. These days celebrated virtue, talent, labor, convictions and awards. In leap years, a sixth day was added, the Celebration of the Revolution.

The calendar only lasted from 1793 to 1805, but was briefly brought back during the two month reign of the Paris Commune in 1871. Have a good First of Vendémiaire, 219!

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About Michael Darling
Collector of the interesting and absurd.

One Response to Happy French Republican New Year

  1. Croatia says:

    This is the 2nd occasion I have come across your blog post in the last couple weeks. Seems like I ought to take note of it.

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