'My gran says it's unlucky to leave decorations up after twelfth-night,' I told Ed, pointing to a miniature Christmas tree on the shelf next to his desk.
'Superstitious nonsense!' he replied and then he added, 'did you know that Twelfth-night used to be Christmas Eve, before they altered the calendar?'
'Why did they do that?' I asked.
'The original calendar was the idea of Julius Caesar, the Roman emperor,' said Ed, 'it's based on the time it takes for the Earth to go round the sun. Anyway, old Julius had to stick in an extra day every four years, to make it work properly.'
'A Leap Year!' I interrupted.
'That's right but even then it wasn't totally accurate. It made the average year eleven minutes longer than it should have been.'
'Yes, and fourteen seconds! By the end of the sixteenth century the calendar was so far out that the Pope decided to put it right by dropping ten days in one year! There were riots in the streets! People thought they were losing ten days of their lives!
'Perhaps that's why they didn't change to the new calendar in England until 1752! And by then…' Ed tapped some figures into his calculator, '…the old one was wrong by a fortnight! Well, there you are,' the old bighead concluded, tossing the calculator back on to the shelf, 'I hope you've learned something this afternoon!' As he spoke, the calculator hit the Christmas tree, which fell on to the tray on the edge of his desk and catapulted a mug of tea across the office and into his open briefcase!
'I certainly have!' I nodded, as we mopped-up and hung his paperwork on the radiator to dry, 'now I know what Gran meant about not clearing away your decorations!'
See you soon