Quarter Days are the four dates in each year that align with religious festivals. The days are roughly three months apart and are close to the two solstices and the two equinoxes. In British history, these days were the ones on which servants were hired, school terms started, and rents were due. They have been observed since the Middle Ages. They made certain debts and unresolved law suits did not drag on and on forever. Accounts and a public reckoning were recorded on quarter days.
The English Quarter Days (also observed in Wales and the Channel Islands) are Lady Day (25 March), Midsummer Day (24 June), Michaelmas (29 September), and Christmas (25 December). Lady Day was set aside in commemoration of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ.
You may recall Mr. Bingley arrives at Netherfield Park at Michaelmas in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and many assume Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam regularly call at Rosings Park to assist Lady Catherine with her Lady Day accounting.
In England, Lady Day was New Year’s Day from 1155 until 1752, when England adopted the Gregorian calendar (moving from the Julian calendar( making 1 January, rather than 25 March, the beginning of the new year. A vestige of this change remains when it comes to the United Kingdom’s tax year, which starts on 6 April, or what is known as “Old Lady Day,” which takes the original Lady Day of 25 March and adjusts for the 11 “lost days” created by the calendar change, making Tax Day occur on 5 April. The date was moved to 6 April after 1800. Until this change, Lady Day, as mentioned above, was considered the start of the legal year, not the liturgical or historical year, which functioned on a different calendar of sorts.
Year-long contracts between land owners and tenants traditionally began and end on Lady Day. Farming families who were changing farms or setting off to the industrial centers of the late Regency and early Victorian periods would do so on Lady Day.
Theconversation.com explains, “The Julian year was only 11½ minutes longer than a solar year, but by the late 1500s, this had all added up and the Julian calendar was some ten days adrift from the solar calendar. The Roman Catholic church was especially concerned because the celebration of Easter had been gradually getting later than when it had been celebrated by the early church.
“And so in October 1582 Pope Gregory XIII instituted a change (to the “Gregorian” calendar) to solve the problem: three leap days were omitted every 400 years by the authority of a papal bull known as ‘Inter Gravissimas’. While Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar, however, England, with its history of conflict with the Roman Catholic church, did not (nor did Russia), and continued with the Julian calendar.
“By 1752, when it was 11 days out of alignment with the rest of Europe, England finally accepted that it would have to make a change. The decision was made to drop 11 days from the month of September to catch up, and so September 2 was followed by September 14 that year. To ensure that there was no loss of tax revenues, however, the Treasury extended the 1752 tax year by adding on the 11 days at the end. Consequently, the beginning of the 1753 tax year was moved to April 5.
“In 1800 a further adjustment was made, shifting the start of the tax year forward by one more day to April 6, once again to mitigate for the differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The year 1800 would have been a leap year under the Julian calendar system, but not the Gregorian one, so the Treasury treated 1800 as a leap year for purposes of taxation to get an extra day’s revenue. April 6 has remained the beginning of the tax year ever since, though it was only formalised in 1900. Although some countries, including the US, Canada, France and Germany, have adopted the calendar year as their tax year, the UK and others such as Australia have not.”
It is interesting that with all these date changes, the UK government’s fiscal year still does not align. The financial year in the UK runs from 1 April to 31 March, not coinciding with the tax year dates.
Give Us Our Eleven Days https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Give-us-our-eleven-days/