French Revolutionary Calendar
The French Revolutionary Calendar, created at the same time as the metric system, was an attempt to create a metric calendar and time system.
The calendar year still had 12 months, but each month was divided into 3 weeks (called "décades") of 10 days each. Each day had 10 hours, each hour 100 "decimal" minutes and each minute 100 "decimal" seconds. The extra 5 days a year were assigned to special Celebration Days.
The calendar was the official calendar in France for 12 years, from 24 October 1793 until it was abolished 1 January 1806 by Napoléon. ( The hour and minute part of it though was officially abandoned in 1795.) The calendar was revived briefly in 1871 during the Paris Commune.
The calendar did away with the birth of Jesus Christ as year 0. Instead, year 1 was assumed to date from 22 September 1792, when the first French Republic was proclaimed. The New Year in the calendar started on the autumn equinox (22nd or 23rd of September, depending on the year.)
Despite its revolutionary nature, however, the Revolutionary Calendar anchored itself in French rural life and attempted to relate to what was happening in agriculture in France at that time of the year.
The calendar was designed by Charles Gilbert Romme, a politician. Fabre d'Églantine came up with the names of the months used. They were completely made-up words, inspired by Latin and Greek words for the most part, perhaps meant to inspire by reminding people of Roman and Greek republics in the past. The names of the months were meant to reflect what would be happening agriculturally at that time of year in France.
The French Revolutionary Calendar was never popular for several reasons. The variation in the autumn equinox, which determined its start, made it complicated to plot. That was a minor detail though compared to what it did to people's work weeks. Previously, people had 1 day in 7 off as a day of rest. The new calendar only gave them 1 day in 10, and the bonus 5 holidays at the end weren't enough to compensate for it.
Days of the Week in the French Revoluntionary CalendarNew names were invented for the ten days of the week, making a complete break with the past by getting rid of the older names based on religion or superstition. The names were also logical, strictly reflecting their place in the week.
Months of the year in the French Revoluntionary Calendar
Name of Month
|Translation||Month starting date|
in Gregorian Calendar
|vintage (from the Latin word vindemia)||22, 23 or 24 September|
|mist (from the French word brume)||22, 23 or 24 October|
|frost (from the French word frimas)||21, 22 or 23 November|
|snow (from the Latin word nivosus)||21, 22 or 23 December|
|rain (from the Latin word pluviosus)||20, 21 or 22 January|
|wind (from the Latin word ventosus)||19, 20 or 21 February|
|seed (from the Latin word germen)||20 or 21 March|
|blossom (from the Latin word flos)||20 or 21 April|
|meadow (from the French word prairie)||20 or 21 May|
|harvest (from the Latin word messis)||19 or 20 June|
|heat (from the Greek word thermos)||19 or 20 July|
|fruits (from the Latin word fructus)||18 or 19 August|
Celebration Days in the French Revoluntionary CalendarIn the Gregorian calendar, the Catholic Church had assigned a saint to each day of the year that were called "feast days." To set up a new secular tradition, the days in a French Revolutionary Calendar month were instead assigned to celebrate something from rural life.
Days that ended in 0 (10, 20, 30) were assigned to an agricultural implement. Days ending in a 5 (5, 15, 25) were assigned to an animal. All other days were assigned to a plant, or a mineral.
(starting 20, 21 or 22 January in our calendar)
(starting 19, 20 or 21 February in our calendar)
(starting 20 or 21 March in our calendar)
(starting 20 or 21 April in our calendar)
(starting 20 or 21 May in our calendar)
(starting 19 or 20 June in our calendar)
(starting 19 or 20 July in our calendar)
(starting 18 or 19 August in our calendar)
(starting 22, 23 or 24 Sept. in our calendar)
(starting 22, 23 or 24 Oct. in our calendar)
(starting 21, 22 or 23 Nov. in our calendar)
(starting 21, 22 or 23 Dec. in our calendar)
‡ Baccharis halimifolia, aka "seneçon en arbre" in French, aka "Groundseltree" in English. Planted as a windbreak.
Year-End Holidays in the French Revoluntionary CalendarThe 12 months of 30 days (360 days) left 5 spare days at the end of each year (6 in leap years.) Bear in mind that the year end in this calendar was the month of Fructidor, running from the third week of August to the third week of September. These spare days were called "les sans-culottides" at first (in honour of the "sans-culottes"), but then late in 1795 they became known as "les jours complémentaires." They were designated as days of national holiday.
|Virtue Day ("La Fête de la Vertu")||17 or 18 September|
|Talent Day ("La Fête du Génie")||18 or 19 September|
|Labour Day ("La Fête du Travail")||19 or 20 September|
|Opinion Day ("La Fête de l'Opinion")||20 or 21 September|
|Rewards Day ("La Fête des Récompenses")||21 or 22 September|
|Revolution Day ("La Fête de la Révolution".) Leap years only.||22 or 23 September|
In rural Greece, months are also given nicknames that reflect the activities that month. July is often called "Alonari" or "Alonisti", from the Greek word for threshing; Alonari is also a 10 day festival in July.
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Calendrier Républicain (French)