John’s Second Post

Now that I’m retired I have time to read all sorts of things that I would have passed by when working. In our local Parish Magazine there is a regular column, “Farming Matters”, written by a local farmer, David Ball. In the current issue he describes the farming calendar with information I wasn’t fully aware of before reading it. Here is an extract:-

“The summer solstice, on 21st June, should not be confused with Midsummer Day. The solstice is the longest day with 16hrs and 38 mins of daylight. The timing is determined by the tilt of the Earth’s axis and its rotation around the sun. Midsummer Day is a religious festival to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, occurring on June 24th, exactly halfway between one Christmas and the next, and is one of the four ‘quarter days’. These were significant days in the Christian calendar when traditionally debts, especially rent for farms and land, were due. Chosen presumably so they wouldn’t be forgotten, they were also the traditional days for hiring new labourers, either on the land or for the ‘big house’. Dating back to the 12th century, the Mop Fair is a traditional gathering around the quarter days when servants and farm hands gathered in a marketplace with the tools of their trade in the hope of being hired. Servants would carry their mops, hence Mop Fair.

These are not exact quarters but are roughly 90 days apart. March 25th is Lady Day. June 24th is Midsummer Day. September 29th is Michaelmas and December 25th is Christmas Day. Until 1752 Lady Day was the first day of the new year and taxes were due on this quarter day. With the move from the Gregorian calendar to the Julian calendar we lost 11 days so the end of the tax year became 6th April. However, Lady Day and Michaelmas are still the most common days to begin a farm tenancy.”

I guess that most country folk will know this but the rest of us may not!