Nothing seems as unchangeable as the march of time, but it’s measurement has changed. I always knew the world’s calendars varied in accuracy and they’d been updated from time to time, so when I needed a character in my novel to have a hidden birthday, sort of like being born on leap day, but less obvious, I went looking for lost days.
I vaguely remembered something from history about Julian and Gregorian calenders so I decided to check them out. I found out that there are many days missing from history, particularly when countries moved from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. One example is Sweden’s February 17th, 1753. That’s the year the country made the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. February 16th was followed by March 1st, a difference of eleven days. (Sweden also experienced a February 30th in 1712 after a failed attempt to switch to the Gregorian calendar.) In my novel, the character is 355 years old, and it would seem, minus 11 days. He was born in Sweden on March 1st, and, if he wants to hide his birthday, February 17th.
What motivated the initial change from Julian to Gregorian calendars? The Julian calendar instituted by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE is off by 11 minutes per year, so over the centuries, Easter was drifting away from the equinox. Catholic leaders could not allow that sort of innacuracy, so in 1582 they added new rules about calculating Easter and took out a few leap years each century. As you can imagine, the change wasn’t immediate. Countries not associated heavily with the Catholic church took longer to embrace the change. Greece and Turkey came in last, finally switching to the Gregorian calendar in 1923 and 1927. If they had stayed on the Julian calendar, today they would be 13 days behind everyone else. As it is, the Gregorian calendar is off by 27 seconds each year, and it will have lost one day every 3236 years. Very few of us have lived under the Julian calendar, and I wonder if anyone alive today will see the next correction.
Time and Date.com