In the western liturgical year,
Lady Day is the traditional name in
some English speaking countries of the
Feast of the Annunciation
Feast of the Annunciation (25
March), known in the 1549 Prayer Book of Edward VI and the 1667 Book
of Common Prayer as "The
Annunciation of the (Blessed) Virgin Mary"
but more accurately (as currently in the 1997 Calendar of the Church
of England) termed "The
Annunciation of our Lord to the Blessed Virgin
Mary". It is the first of the four traditional English quarter days.
The "Lady" is the Virgin Mary. The term derives from Middle English,
when some nouns lost their genitive inflections. "Lady" would later
gain an -s genitive ending, and therefore the name means "Lady's day".
The day commemorates the tradition of archangel Gabriel's announcement
to Mary that she would give birth to the Christ.
Lady Day was
New Year's Day
New Year's Day between 1155 and 1752, after
which 1 January was declared to be the official start of the year.
A vestige of this remains in the United Kingdom's tax year, which
starts on 6 April, i.e.,
Lady Day adjusted for the lost days of the
calendar change. Until this change
Lady Day had been used as the start
of the legal year. This should be distinguished from the liturgical
and historical year. It appears that in England and Wales, from at
least the late 14th century,
New Year's Day
New Year's Day was celebrated on 1
January as part of Yule. Before 1751 the year began in March.
As a year-end and quarter day that conveniently did not fall within or
between the seasons for plowing and harvesting,
Lady Day was a
traditional day on which year-long contracts between landowners and
tenant farmers would begin and end in England and nearby lands
(although there were regional variations). Farmers' time of "entry"
into new farms and onto new fields was often this day. As a
result, farming families who were changing farms would travel from the
old farm to the new one on Lady Day. After the calendar change, "Old
Lady Day" (5 April), the former date of the Annunciation, largely
assumed this role. The date is significant in some of the works of
Thomas Hardy, such as
Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the
The logic of using
Lady Day as the start of the year is that it
roughly coincides with
Equinox (when the length of day and night is
equal); many ancient cultures still use this time as the start of the
new year, for example, the
Iranian new year
Iranian new year and the original Hebrew
new year. In some traditions it also reckons years AD from the moment
of the Annunciation, which is considered to take place at the moment
of the conception of Jesus at the
Annunciation rather than at the
moment of his birth at Christmas.
In Ireland, however, Lady's Day means 15 August, the Feast of the
Assumption of Mary, and is a day when fairs are celebrated in many
country towns.
International Women's Day
International Women's Day — 8 March
National Women's Day
^ Catholic Encyclopedia, General Chronology (Beginning of the Year).
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Fytte Three
^ Adams, Leonard P. "Agricultural Depression and Farm Relief in
England, 1813–1852" Reviewed in Journal of the Royal Statistical
Society, 95(4):735–737 (1932)
^ "The Tenant League v. Common Sense" Irish Quarterly Review