Calendar for 1641-42.
Although farmers and no doubt 'ordinary' people referred to 1 January as New Year's Day, the year number changed on Lady Day, 25 March. This was changed to our modern system when 1751 was cut short by three months and ended on 31 December. Not only did 1752 start on 1 January, but 11 days between the 2 and 14 September were removed from the calendar, (i.e.: 3 to 13 September missing). This is why the financial year starts on the 5 April and why many references to old documents give the year as, eg. 14 Feb. 1650/51.
This change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar had already taken place in most of Europe in 1582 when the ten days between 4 October and 15 October were removed. The error had gradually accumulated because the Julian calendar allowed century years to be leap years, whereas Gregorian calendar century years can only be leap years if they are divisible by 400.
Thus in 1642 English dates were ten days behind European dates and by 1751 were eleven days behind (because we had an extra day in 1700, 29 February, that the rest of Europe didn't have. Therefore by 1752 the sun here was out of time with the calendar and the shortest day, 21 December now, occurred on 31 December in 1642. As it is colder in January than in December, this might explain why a 'white Christmas' was more likely in 1642 than it is in modern times.
Compiled by R.Towner and R.Roberts