12 Months of the French Republican Calendar

“Vendemiaire (grape harvest) * Brumaire (fog) * Frimaire (frost) * Nivose (snowy) * Pluviose (rainy) * Ventose (Windy) * Germinal (germination) * Floreal (flower) * Prairial (pasture) * Messidor (Harvest) * Thermidor (heat) * Fructidor (fruit)

This calendar was part of a reform movement to make over the world into a rational yet poetic place. Its first month, Vendemiaire (from the Latin for ‘grape harvest) started the day after the autumn equinox, which was neat, for it was also the day after the abolition of the monarchy on Year 1 of the Republic, 22 September, 1792.

The poet-journalist Fabre d’Eglantine was called in to advise the calendar committee on the naming of the months. They were to be exactly thirty days long, composed of three ten-day long weeks, each ending with a decadi as the day of rest. Days were to be composed of just ten hours (so 144 of our current minutes) abnd each hour was divided into 100 minutes and each minute into 100 seconds. The whole reformed calendar lasted for twelve years, from 1793 to 1805, though the week and hour reforms never took off beyond the political periphery of Paris. It was revived for another eighteen days during the Paris Commune of 1871. It was ridiculed by the British, who nicknamed the Republican Calendar with its four formal seasons: Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy and Nippy; Showery, Flowery and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.