French Republican (Revolutionary) Calendar

Would it be beneficial to use this Calendar today?


  • Total voters
    14
Apr 2017
484
Sioux City, IA
#1
Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I thought I would get a thread going on this subject, as it is one of considerable interest to me. The French Revolution was perhaps the first of many radical revolutions, to be followed by the Russian, the Mongolian, the Chinese, and many others.

One of the things the French Revolution did was try to decisively BREAK with the past. To this end they abolished the monarchy, attempted to abolish the Church, and set up a decimal system of weights and measures, a decimal clock, and a decimal calendar. We know the weights and measures system as the metric system, in use everywhere but the USA, Liberia, and Myanmar (Burma), which has announced its intention to switch over from its own native system to metric in the near future.

The decimal clock was EXTREMELY unpopular, and was only really used in earnest for about eight months or so, although there were vague attempts at it throughout the Revolutionary period. The calendar, however, was another matter.

The Calendar in use, the Gregorian, had been developed by a Pope in 1582, and of course, was used primarily by the Church. Each day was named after one or more saints, and the months were anywhere from 28 to 31 days long! How absurd!

So, the new calendar was created by a committee of scientists, mathematicians, and even a well known poet or two, and of course some philosophers and politicians.

The new calendar still had twelve months. But each had 30 days, divided into decades, or ten-days, as we might call them in English. Those days of the ten day "week" were simply called "primidi", "duodi", "tridi", etc up to "decadi". First-day, Second-day, Third-day, and so-forth. It was easy to know what day it was just by figuring out what number the day ended with. If it was the 21st day of the month, it was obviously a primidi.

Each month was given a very poetic name (by one of the poets on the committee), indicating the sort of thing that went on in that month. For example, the first month was Vendemiaire, "Grape Harvest". The last was Fructidor, "Fruit". There were months like Ventose, "Windy", and Nivose, "Snowy". And of course, Thermidor, "Heat". These were all neo-logisms derived from Latin, French, and sometimes Greek suffixes. Each set of three was designed to rhyme as well.

The New Year began on midnight of the sighting of the Autumnal Equinox in Paris. There were five additional days at the end of each year given up to festival, designated for Genius, Labour, Noble Actions, Awards, and Opinion. Every Leap Year a sixth was added to celebrate the Revolution.

Because the beginning of the year depended on visual sighting, so did the leap year. During the period the calendar was in use, they had to keep the leap year going so that the Autumnal Equinox would measure out ok. They decided to regularise things mathematically starting in 1820, but the calendar had been abolished by then, so this never happened. There were two suggestions put forth. One was simply to adopt the Gregorian rule. The other was to state that every four years was leap unless it was evenly divisible by 128. This would actually have been more accurate. But the French Republican Calendar I have on my wall uses the Gregorian rule, which will remain accurate for now. In about 250 years it will be off by about a day.

The final thing the reformers did was give EVERY day a name. Instead of a saint, each day was given an animal (each quintidi), a farm tool (each decadi), or a plant or mineral (the rest). Woe betide unto that child who happened to have the misfortune of being born on "Manure Day"!

Every quintidi, everyone was given the afternoon off, and every decadi, the whole day off. Thus, they actually got a bit more rest than they had done under the the old 7 day week (1 day every Sunday). The oft-repeated statement that French people resented the ten-day week is only part true. They did appreciate less work. On the other hand, the fact that Sunday was no longer a rest day did irritate many.

The calendar was in use for a little over 12 years. Once Napoleon came to terms with the Church, he declared the restoration of the Gregorian Calendar, effective 1 January 1806. In the Paris Commune of 1871 it was used again for eight days.

The years dated from September 22 of 1792, in the Year of the Republic. Usually, years are rendered into Roman numerals.

So, in a nutshell, THAT is the story behind the Revolutionay Calendar. I personally use the French Calendar for private purposes, and the Gregorian for other purposes.

Well, if you have any questions, do let me know.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2017
484
Sioux City, IA
#4
In addition, it is interesting to note that this Calendar is actually very similar to the Ancient Egyptian Calendar, except that their New Year began with the Summer Solstice in June, rather than in September.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,845
US
#5
Being a practical sort, I don't see a transition to this kind of calendar. Then again, I am a traditional kind of guy. Still interesting nonetheless. History is replete with such things and this forum is the perfect place to share them.
 
Apr 2017
484
Sioux City, IA
#6
*GRIN*This is a great forum. I am one of those people who, despite being an active church-goer, and in a conservative Church (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), think the government should be entirely secular. I believe that religious organisations should register with the State, and pay Tax. And I believe that ALL private schools K-12 should be disposed of and that children should all be educated in Public Schools. You want God, go to Sunday School.

Marriages should all be civil. You want a religious marriage, fine, but it should not count as a State ceremony. Basically, I am pushing for French Secularism. But I would go a step further and change the calendar as well, so that no one religion got preferred over another.

Obviously,if I owned a business, I would try to make arrangements for my employees to honour their beliefs. That is just called being a decent Boss.

Of course, these are strictly my own opinions. I certainly don't require your agreement. You are right. That is the fun of this Forum. To discuss such things. *GRIN*
 
Apr 2017
484
Sioux City, IA
#8
In general, that is true. Although I would include other larger cities along with Paris. But most Frenchmen did find it a bit odd. But that was then. Today, France is a VERY secular nation. And the USA is so multi-religious the Gregorian calendar here is absurd, as it is in Israel, China, and Saudi Arabia. Better to use an entirely secular one for secular purposes, and leave the religious ones for that. But, hey, it's cool. Just my thoughts.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,845
US
#9
I am still waiting for the USA to go to the metric system. When I was in elementary school 45 years ago they said it was forthcoming. To me, the metric system is practical and applicable. Americans are a stubborn lot sometimes. Changing the calendar would drive us out of our minds.I don't think my brain would adjust to 10 day weeks, either, due it being so novel, unlike the metric system which has stood side by side for some time on most Americans products.