Monday, June 05, 2006

A Flower a Day

I have no doubt that my Catholic childhood had a lot to do with my becoming a calendar priestess and folklorist specializing in seasonal holidays. From very early on, I learned that there was a sacred rhythm to the year and particular ceremonies to honor it. And I sometimes date the start of my vocation to the day (was it when I was confirmed?) that I was given a Saint of the Day stamp calendar, which I still own in almost-mint condition.

But I didn’t begin actively collecting seasonal holiday folklore until I was a lonely sophomore at Reed College in the early 1970’s, when I spent a lot of time at the library, poring over Chambers Book of Days and Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary of Folklore and Mythology. It was around this time that I discovered the French Republican Calendar. I even wrote a paper about it for my Humanities class.

The French revolutionaries wanted to do away with any vestige of the old regime, including the old political and religious holidays, so they created a new calendar, one that would be eminently rational and practical. Each month was thirty days and contained three weeks of ten days (thereby quite handily abolishing Sundays). The months were named after the seasonal qualities and grouped by season as well.

Spring began on Mar 20/21 (the Spring Equinox) with Germinal (seed), followed by Floreal (flower) and Prairial (meadow). Summer began on June 19/20 (Summer Solstice) with Messidor (harvest) followed by Thermidor (hot) and Fructidor (fruit). Autumn began on Sept 22, 23 or 24 (around the Autumn Equinox) and contained Vendemiaire (vintage), Brumaire (mist) and Frimaire (frost). While Winter began on Dee 21, 22 or 23 with the month named Nivose (snowy), followed by Pluviose (rainy) and Ventose (windy).

The English, who were not big fans of the French at this time, made fun of the new seasons by calling the months Showery, Flowery and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety; Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; and Slippy, Drippy and Nippy.

In order to make the calendar match up with the tropical calendar, five extra days were added at the end of every year (so starting on September 17). These were named Virtue Day, Talent Day, Labor Day, Opinion Day, Rewards Day and in leap years an extra day, Revolution Day.

Instead of the old custom of saints days, each day of the year was assigned a quality or a plant. Most days were linked to plants but days ending in 5 were associated with animals and those ending in 0 with tools.

And for many years this is all I knew about the French Republican Calendar. I longed to find a description of the meanings assigned to those days but my searches turned up no further information. Until a few weeks ago when I did a search on Wikipedia and found a great article on the French Republican Calendar which included a chart showing the meanings assigned to each day.

This discovery had two effects upon me, besides the sheer elation. One, I realized that practically everything I want to know will sooner or later surface on the Internet and that I don’t need to do all the research alone. Two, it inspired me to start this blog, in which I will feature, as often as I can, a flower a day, in an effort to find the flowery and seasonal correlations of my days.

I have in my collection a chart that that assigns a flower to every day. Alas, this came from those lonely days at Reed College and I didn’t annotate my source. From time to time, I pull it out and look at it but I’ve never liked the assignments--they don’t make sense to me seasonally. I know that Pip Wilson of Wilson’s Almanac ( provides a plant for every day of the year, mostly plants associated with a saint of the day. With the addition of the French Republican Calendar list on Wikipedia, I have three choices for any day and I believe I will be able to find something meaningful for each day.

Let me know if you have any suggestions, lists or nominations for flower of a particular day.


Jeanne said...

I've been enjoying your website and newsletter for years -- I'm so pleased that you're blogging now, too.
Jeanne - an avid celebrator-of-the-year

patricia b. said...

Love your flower of the day blog--I think my Catholic upbringing has also predisposed me to all things magickal and mystickal.