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6.4 Calendar

Sunday: the day that celebrates the Sun was declared the Christian day of worship and rest by the half-British Roman Emperor Constantine the Great [see Constantine]; Monday is Moon day

Wednesday: named for Woden, from whom the West Saxons of southern Britain traced their line; the West Saxons became Wessex - which had in any case been the centre of Britain’s Megalithic Culture; Wessex became England became the United Kingdom became the British Empire; the current British Royal Family trace their origins to the West Saxons, but their line goes much further back than that [see Elizabeth II]

Weekend: Robert Walpole (1676-1745) was Britain and the world’s first modern-style prime minister; he was in office 1721-42; Walpole persuaded the House of Commons in 1732 to abandon Saturday sittings so he could go hunting instead, thereby creating a two-day break; the weekend has since been taken up enthusiastically all around the world; the concept of the weekend is Britain’s greatest contribution to global recreation, along with football, while the word weekend is one of Britain’s greatest contributions to the world’s lexicon [see Robert Walpole]

July: Britain was invaded in 55 and again in 54 BC by Julius Caesar (100 BC -44 BC); he was ultimately the subduer of Britain rather than its conqueror [see Julius Caesar]; Caesar pushed through calendar reform in Rome in 46 BC, expanding ten months to twelve and renaming Quintilis after himself, as July; although he had been given a harder than expected time by the islanders, the British honour Caesar to this day via the Roman calendar that they and the world still use

Easter: named by the Venerable Bede (672/3-735), after the pagan goddess of Spring, Eostre [see The Venerable Bede]

Christmas: the Christian observance of Christmas began in the AD 300s; the tradition of revelling over thirteen days (Christmas Day plus twelve days to 6th January) seems to have been instituted in the late AD 400s by no less a figure than King Arthur himself [see Arthur]; the account is given in the Scottish Chronicles of the Tudor historian Holinshed [see Sources]; Arthur besieges and takes enemy-held York, using the captured Saxons ‘very gently, therby to win more praise amongst all those that heard of his worthie victories’; the Britons ‘began to take their ease, namelie in the depth of winter’

'It is thought by some, that about the same time, Arthur first instituted, that the feast of Christmasse should be kept with such excesse of meats and drinks, in all kinds of inordinate banketting and reuell [revel] for the space of thirteene daies togither, according to the custome vsed still through both the realmes of England and Scotland euen vnto this day…this insatiable gourmandise…surelie a great abuse it is, to see the people at such a solemne feast, where they ought to be occupied in thanks giuing to almightie God, for the sending downe of his onelie begotten sonne amongst us, to giue themselues in manner wholie to gluttonie, and excessiue filling of their bellies, with such maner of lewd and wanton pastimes…than the remembrance of Christs natiuite, who abhorreth all maner of such excesse.' [Source: Holinshed]

The celebration of Christmas as we know today it arrived with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in 1843, the Christmas card (invented by Henry Cole in 1846, who also produced the first sets of children's building blocks) and crackers (invented by a London baker Tom Smith in 1847); to this trio can be added the Royal Family’s decoration of a Christmas tree, a tradition brought over by Prince Albert from his German homeland, though it might have derived from Holy Thorn tree, planted at Glastonbury by Joseph of Arimathea, which blooms in May and December [see Joseph of Arimathea]; Dickens’s childhood in the early 1800s saw the coldest weather since the 1690s; Dickens gave us the ideal of a snowy festivity [see White Christmas]; the world's first recorded Christmas bonus was instituted annually for staff of the Gas Light & Coke Co., Westminster, London, in 1813 [Source: Robertson/Shell]

BC/AD: The Venerable Bede (672/3-735) caused the adoption of the Christian system of numbering years backwards from the birth of Jesus ('Before Christ', BC) and subsequent to it ('Anno Domini', AD, 'The year of our Lord'), though the system had been invented elsewhere; “Bede was universally honoured as the greatest scholar of his day. It is to his influence that the world owes the practice, adopted later, of reckoning the years from the birth of Christ.”; (Winston Churchill, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, 1956) [see The Venerable Bede]

National rituals: Trooping of the Colour, State Opening of Parliament, Service of Remembrance, Budget Day

Guy Fawkes Night: otherwise known as Bonfire Night, this occurs annually on 5th November: this celebrates the foiling of a Catholic plot in 1605, as attempted by Yorkshireman Guy Fawkes; his intention was to blow up Parliament and King James within it; his complaint was discrimination against Catholics; Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were hanged, drawn and quartered in early 1606; yet before Guy Fawkes Night there was the winter fire ceremony of the Druids, as celebrated on 1st November; the latter date was taken over by the Christians as All Saints Day; in the 1700s it became a tradition in England to burn an effigy or ‘guy’ at Bonfire Night, to commemorate the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot; in American English ‘guy’ eventually came to mean any man and this use of the word has entered British English, with 'guys' in Global English applicable to a mixed company of males and females

May Day: Roodmas is another name for this festival in England, while May Day was also known as Beltane in Scotland and Ireland and Calan Mai in Wales; it features the marriage of the Green Man and the May Queen; the latter may be identified with Great Earth Mother of Greeks and Romans, Maia; May Day is notable for May-pole dancing; archetypal festival of pastoral idyll that was ‘Merrie England’ – a phrase that may derive from the cult of Mary Jacob, i.e. St Mary the Gypsey, as in ‘Egyptian’, whence ‘Morris Men’ dancers and ‘Merrie Men’ of the greenwood and Maid Marion; the half-British Roman Emperor Constantine the Great banned her cult, to little avail

Valentine’s Day: the world’s oldest surviving Valentine’s card is British and is dated February 1477; the first known lonely-heart ad appeared in Britain in July 1695 [see Lonely-heart ad]

Dunmow Flitch: this is a side of pork presented since 1244 to the most happily married couple; this would appear to be the world’s oldest continuously presented prize; the Flitch is awarded on the same four-year cycle as the Olympics, coincidentally

When & where: time and location are expressed globally in relation to the Greenwich Meridian - also known as the Prime Meridian - the 0 ° longitude line that runs north-south through Greenwich in east London, to honour the Royal Observatory there [see Greenwich Meridian & Greenwich Mean Time]

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