Happy New Year!
Today is the first day of the first month (Vendémiaire, or “grape harvest”) of the French Republican Calendar, which was used between 1792 and 1806.
The French Republican Calendar divided the year into twelve months of 30 days each. Each month was further divided into 3 “decades”—weeks of 10 days each.
But that wasn’t enough to signify the end of the old era. The French went one step further, naming every single day of the year for a crop or plant. (Except for every fifth day, which was named for an animal or tool.)
For example, today, the 1st day of Vendémiaire, is Raisin, which in French means—you guessed it—“grape”.
Vendémiaire 9th is Panais (parsnip), the 18th is Sarrazin (buckwheat), and the 21st is Chanvre (hemp).
Horse, Donkey, and Cattle are also honored in Vendémiaire on the 5th, 15th, and 25th respectively.
Three agricultural tools are honored on the 10th, 20th, and 30th: the Tub, the Wine-Press, and the Barrel. We’re assuming this tub is for wine, not bathing. (Or both?)
There was debate as to whether the new epoch delineated by the calendar would begin in 1789, the year of the revolution, or 1792, the year of the formation of the Republic. The government settled upon the latter, marking the autumnal equinox (September 22) as Year I of the new era.
Vendémiaire 1st occasionally began on September 23, and once on September 24 (in 1804).
Around the time of the creation of the calendar, those wacky French were also establishing new-fangled standards of measurement like the metre (distance), gram (weight) and the litre (volume). Over the next 200 years the Metric System would be adopted by all present nations except Burma, Liberia, and the United States. The Republican Calendar however did not fare so well. It was abolished by Napoleon in 1806.
Nevertheless, today we urge you to imbibe the fruits of the raisin, as we toast to the New Year and to days of Auld Lang Syne. Or as the French would say, “Aux jours du bon vieux temps.”
Les vieux amis du temps passé,
Se sont-ils oubliés ?
Alors que nos coeurs ont gardé
L’amour du temps passé ?
Old friends from long ago
Are they forgotten?
While our hearts have kept
Love from long ago?
Choral des Adieux