calendar and hourglass with the text the Gregorian Calendar History

The Gregorian Calendar History

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Calendars hanging on the wall may not seem as popular as they once were now that we have electronic calendars. I have more than 10 different Google calendars to keep track of things! A wall calendar AND a desk calendar also grace my collection. Apparently, I collect calendars as a side hobby. I bet it won’t surprise you that women buy more calendars than men. Planners generate more than 3 million dollars annually. Wall and desk calendar sales continue to grow by at least 8 % annually despite the seemingly digital world we live in. Keeping track of time by the day, the month and the year is an important skill! Implementing the Gregorian calendar history into our Seasons, Months, days of the week lapbook was important to me.

A year-long project

When the Happy Hive set out on our year-long holiday-based learning adventure, I felt it was important to also include a study of the calendar. After all, the holidays occur each MONTH and we mark them on our CALENDARS. We began our curriculum in January to coincide with the New Year so the timing was perfect!

I created a lapbook that would record the basic year-long journey while giving the kids the academic foundation behind the seasons, how the months got their names, and how we ended up with the Gregorian calendar we use today. I also had them write their name each month as a keepsake for our Time Capsule. Now that curriculum writing is officially my gig, this lapbook has been dusted off, revised, refreshed, renewed, and if I dare say – IMPROVED. (sorry kids!) But before I show you the new and improved version, let’s look at the Gregorian Calendar’s history from perhaps the very beginning.

Ancient Calendars

Before explaining how Pope Gregory came to the decision to change the calendar, let’s go way back and look at truly ancient calendars. Archaeologists have discovered things they “think” are ancient calendars such as the holes in Warren Field in Scotland or Stonehenge. But since we can’t ask the ancient peoples who created these, we are guessing. It’s cool to think about!

Picture of the sun coming through the rocks at Stonehenge asking the question, was Stonehenge a calendar?.
Perhaps Stonehenge was an ancient calendar! Since we can’t ask the builders, we can only guess.

Watching the stars, and the behavior of the moon has also acted as a natural calendar for centuries. Eventually, technology gets better and better. The length of a year is known to be 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, to be precise. This causes some crazy things to happen over time. Hello Leap Year!

If you’d like to take a peek at one of Happy Hive’s Calendar experts Candace explain in more detail some calendar history you can check out her video.

That’s just a sneak peek at what’s included in the full 17-minute teaching video Candace hosts in our Seasons, Months, & Days of the Week Resource!

How the Months Got their Names

January 1 wasn’t always the “First Day” of the new year. Ancient Romans began their year in what we call March. The Romans also gave us the names for some of the months of the year. (The Romans took their calendar from the Greeks and the Greeks based their calendar on ….we can go back to prehistoric times, so for the purpose of this blog post I chose to begin with the Roman calendar, progress to the Julian Calendar, and end with the current, Gregorian calendar.)

mars, the roman god of war asking "I wonder how the month's got their names?"
Even Mars, the Roman god of war wonders how the months got their names!

Since the Romans began with March, we will too. One theory about where March got its name is due to what we call the March or vernal equinox. Another claims March is named for MARS, the Roman god of war.

There is no clear answer regarding the origin of April’s name, only several theories. It could come from the Latin word for second because at the time April was the second month of the year. Perhaps April got its name from the goddess Aphrodite. Still, a third theory proposes the name came from yet another Latin word: “aperire”. This word means open. April is a spring month in which many flowers and plants are “opening”. What do you think is the reason April was named?

May is said to be named after the goddess of growing plants: Maia

The Roman god and patroness of marriage and weddings is named Juno. That’s how June got its name. Do you know anyone who has an anniversary or is planning to get married in June?

The Romans called the 5th-month Quintilis, that’s Latin for 5th. It was later renamed July in 44B.C. after Julius Caesar.

Another Caesar, this time Augustus Caesar, is responsible for the name August. Previously, the Romans called it Sextillia, which is Latin for 6th.

The “Ber” Months all have Latin roots

Now we enter the “ber” months. Maybe because they are cold – brrrr! September is derived from septem, Latin for Seven. October is from octo, Latin for eight. November, takes its name from novem which is Latin for Nine. Finally, we have December which is named from the Larin word for ten, decem. (This is leading me to lean toward a particular theory for April, how about you?)

Winter is completely ignored

The Roman Calendar ended after 10 months initially. February and January were added about 700 BCE (Before Common Era)

February was named after the festival Februa. And January was named after Janus the god of beginnings and endings.

The Romans simply ignored 61 days in the winter. Imagine that. This went on for quite some time. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar proposed a reform of the Roman calendar. This reform is designed with the help of some pretty skilled Greek astronomers of the time. It took effect on January 1, 45 BC (remember when we calculate BC years we are counting down to 0 which is said to be the year Jesus was born, so 45 BC is indeed AFTER 46 BC when the calendar was proposed.)

The Julian calendar gives us Leap Years, however, they are incorrect, and eventually, things were out of whack. Important religious holidays we not in line with equinoxes and solstices.

Now we get to The Gregorian Calendar History!

In 1582 Pope GregoryXlll created what we now know as the “Gregorian Calendar” in which most (but not all) western nations began celebrating the start of the year on the 1st of January. It recalculates the year accurately, including leap years, and our 7 day week.

clip art of Pope infront of Vatican saying he redesigned a really awesome calendar
Pope Gregory Xlll updated the Julian calendar to help re-align Easter with its original date.

When the Gregorian calendar was first introduced, not all countries adopted it. It wasn’t until 1752 that the British and their colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar for use. When they converted they had to drop 11 days from September to make it work! In September 1752, September 2, 1752, was followed by September 14, 1752. How crazy is that??? I wonder when they celebrated their birthdays that year…

Keep track of Time (and Precious Memories) in your homeschool!

Now that you have a bit of calendar history, let’s dive into the Seasons, Months, & Days of the Week Lapbook that will help you document learning all year long!

Our Seasons, Months, and Days of the Week Lapbook makes teaching how rotation and revolution impact the seasons a SNAP. It’s also “hemisphere” neutral and works regardless of where you are in the world. “Sun” and “Earth” are careful to refer to the changing seasons by MONTH rather than as the “Autumn Equinox” for example.  These terms are important for students to have a healthy worldview – not to mention the being a scientifically accurate way to refer to the seasons! 

You also get a great overview of the history of the Gregorian Calendar when completing the Monthly History Pockets. The included informational text can be read by the learner, parent, or older sibling. We even have a SECOND slide presentation and teaching video that includes this calendar history and how the months got their names. Did you get a chance to view the Sneek Peek with Candace?

Products for the Gregorian Calendar History

This resource is suitable for multiple ages, including printables for your kids in trace over, print, or cursive fonts. As my gift to you, you can download the poem “Thirty days in September” as a free sample of what’s included in the resource.

Months of the year poem freebie cover
Download this copywork and lapbooking element from the Happy Hive Homeschooling Shop.

I think you will love completing a year-long lapbook project with your kids as much as I did! You can set up your lapbook using a spiral notebook, or by connecting multiple file folders. If you want to find out more about lapbooking and how I used it in both my home and classroom I recommend heading over to THIS POST: WHAT IS LAPBOOKING? If you are ready to dive into this fantastic project for the seasons, months, and days of the week, just click the image below!

cover image for seasons of the year lapbook
Visit the Homeschool Holiday store to purchase this year-long lapbook project!

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