Monday, June 26, 2006

At Least You're Not Born on Hairy Vetchling Day

In the spirit of the great Egyptian king Ankhenaten — the ruler who switched the empire’s political capitol to Amarna and overhauled the national religion to worship a solar disc in lieu of Ra, the longstanding deity primo — and other such botched attempts at renovation, I present to you something that I only recently learned of: the French Revolutionary calendar. See, Ankhenaten’s new religion failed, and immediately upon his death, his successor moved the capital back to Thebes and the solar disc was abolished, despite all the king’s efforts.

I enjoy this, the idea that no matter how hard you work for something, it can be undone easily the moment you leave town.

As I understand it, the French Revolutionary calendar was the result of the revolutionaries’ desire to burn the establishment to the ground and start over. Apparently, the rebellion included the the destruction of the seven-day week. The changes included the following:
  • Twelve new months, each divided into three ten-day weeks
  • The ten days were called “Primidi,” “Duodi,” and so forth in a numerical fashion
  • A period called the “Franciade” that occurred at the end of the twelve-month schedule, to make up for the extra days that would otherwise force the calendar off-schedule
  • A wacky base-ten invention called “decimal time” to replace our base-six clock
The months were divided into seasonal units, as follows, beginning in the calendar start at the autumnal equinox. As the Wikipedia explains it:
  1. Vendémiaire (from Latin vindemia, “vintage”)
  2. Brumaire (from French brume, “mist”)
  3. Frimaire (From French frimas, “frost”)
  4. Nivôse (from Latin nivosus, “snowy”)
  5. Pluviôse (from Latin pluviosus, “rainy”)
  6. Ventôse (from Latin ventosus, “windy”)
  7. Germinal (from Latin germen, “seed”)
  8. Floréal (from Latin flos, “flower”)
  9. Prairial (from French prairie, “meadow”)
  10. Messidor (from Latin messis, “harvest”)
  11. Thermidor (from Greek thermos, “hot”)
  12. Fructidor (from Latin fructus, “fruit”)
(Wikipedia also notes that Britons mocked the months by calling them Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy and Nippy; Showery, Flowery and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety. Ha.)

Even better, in lieu of the Catholic calendar of saints, the French Revolutionary Calendar attached everyday objects to the days of the year. Every tenth day was named in honor of a household object, while every fifth days (excluding multiples of ten) was named for an animal. The remaining ones were plants and minerals. This is where is gets fun. For example, my birthday is June 4. On the FRC, this would correspond to the 16th day of Prairial, or "Oeillet," Carnation Day.

Happy Carnation Day, me!

Conversely, other holidays on the Gregorian calendar are worse off. Christmas, for example, is the 5th day of Nivôse, “Chien” — Dog Day. So decorate your Dog Day tree. Halloween would be the 10th day of Brumaire, Plough Day, which sounds just as fun as the holiday currently celebrated on that day. Don’t get drunk on St. Patrick’s Day, because that’s now Ventôse 27th, Forest Day. And our friends in Mexico can join us in celebration of the 17th day of Floréal instead of Cinco de Mayo. And we’ll all call it “Pimprenelle” — or Salad Burnet Day!

The program was abandoned by Napoleon in 1806, though it still crops in randomly — for example, in the name of the dish Lobster Thermidor. I think the whole thing is funny, really. Come on, French people. The whole Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday thing is not worth rebelling against. Norse gods are not the man. It’s still good for a laugh, however. So I encourage everyone to go see what lame mascot they get affixed to their birthday by checking out this handy-dandy table.

And please, have a great Shallot Day!

[ source: Prance Closer ]

EDIT: As Nate and Spence have now both pointed out to me, my day is, in fact, Carnation Day — not Quail Day. The correction has been made above. It turns out I'm bad at reading the French Revolutionary Calendar. But as I said before, at least I'm not born on Hairy Vetchling Day.


  1. Dude, I counted and recounted several times. The fourth is carnation day. The Third is quail day. But mines cotton so thats not much better. I hate being a plant.


  2. Man... I'm on freaking Spinach Day.