Today is the day I know as Lady Day. I am reliably informed that this is the traditional name of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. Lady Day is one of the four quarter days, the other days being Midsummer Day, June 24th; Michaelmas Day, September 29th and Christmas Day, December 25th. You will note that these days all fall close to either a solstice or an equinox.
Lady Day, coming as it does at the beginning of the farming year, was the traditional day for farm workers to take up new employment. Thomas Hardy reflects this in Tess of the D’Urbevilles. This significance remains to this day. If you had heard the business section of the Today programme at 6.16 am this morning then you would have heard a discussion regarding the issue some businesses have with the fact that three months rent becomes due today. It goes further than that. When we changed the calendar from Gregorian calendar to Julian in 1752, it was necessary to lose 11 days. However, it was decided that the tax year would run to 365 days, thus the end date of March 25th, Lady Day was moved eleven days later to April 5th where it remains to this day.
Finally, Lady Day used to be the first day of the year; dates would be recorded, for example, as 24th March 1657 with the following day being 25th March 1658. I am indebted to Wikipedia for furnishing the reason for this; ‘The logic of using Lady Day as the start of the year is that it reckons years A.D. from the moment of the Annunciation, which is considered to take place at the moment of the conception of Jesus at the Annunciation rather than at the moment of his birth at Christmas.’ This practice stopped and January 1st was taken as the first day of the New Year, in the manner of the Romans, when the Julian calendar was adopted in 1752.