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How do we know the actual date?

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Do you get to stay up past your bedtime on New Year's Eve? It can be pretty exciting to count down to midnight, shout and cheer, and gasp in delight at light shows and fireworks. But how do we know it's January 1 of a brand new year?

Since ancient times, humans have watched the skies and tracked the movements of the moon and stars. People figured out how to mark the seasons to know when to plant crops and to get ready for winter. But measuring time is tricky!

The early Romans used a calendar that was mainly based on the moon. But those in charge of date-keeping did not do a very good job. By the time Julius Caesar ruled Rome, summer months were arriving in the spring. Yikes! Caesar fixed this in 46 BC with a 365-day solar year calendar.

But the Julian calendar year was a bit longer than the year of the seasons. Over time, anniversaries began arriving earlier again. In 1582, the spring equinox occurred on March 11 instead of the original date, March 21. So Pope Gregory XIII changed this by dropping 10 days from the calendar. What came after Thursday, October 4, 1582? Not October 5 – it became Friday, October 15. Talk about time travel!

The new calendar was called the Gregorian calendar. It was adopted by Roman Catholic countries, but other countries continued to use the Julian calendar. England didn't make the switch until 1752, when it was necessary to drop 11 days. You could say that many days were "lost" in this way.

Although most places in the world go by the Gregorian calendar today, different calendar systems are still in use. No matter when you ring in the new year or which cultural and religious holidays your family celebrates, time flies when you're having fun!

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