Customs

France’s Brief Experiment With Decimal Time

Much to our dismay, we came across the information for this article a few days too late to wish you a Happy Manure Day. Not to despair — December 28 will roll around again.

Of course, if you are already in the habit of observing Manure Day in your home, you already have the date circled on your calendar, but not December 28 — for you, it is the 8th of Nivôse.

If none of this makes any sense to you, you’re in good company. Manure Day and a whole lot of other curious practices came out of the brief flirtation with decimal time known as the French Republican Calendar. Although innovative, it attempted to do too much at once and was abandoned after about twelve years of less-than-uniform use.

The French Revolution of 1792 threw out the monarchy — for a time — and introduced the nation to the novel concept of democracy — for a little while. In addition to the changes in government, the Revolution threw out the traditional calendar — for a while — and introduced a brand new way of keeping track of the days — for a time, anyway.

Marie Antoinette was beheaded in October 1793. The leaders of the Revolution, flush with power, decided it wasn’t enough to decapitate their former monarchs; they wanted all traditional forms of authority to make way for the new. A few days after the deposed queen met her fate, the country was introduced to the French Revolutionary Calendar (calendrier républicain).

The Gregorian calendar originated with the Church, and the king had claimed divine right to rule. In the minds of the revolutionaries, the Church and State were interconnected. What better way to declare a new Age of Reason than to abolish everything associated with the two institutions?

The new calendar embraced this enlightened philosophy by getting rid of all Judeo-Christian references, such as holidays and feast days for saints. Instead, each day of the year was assigned a plant or plant preparation item.

It also sought to bring a decimal concept to the calendar. The days were divided into 10 hours. Each hour lasted slightly longer than two Gregorian hours. Ten days made up one week, known as a décade. One month consisted of three décades. The year consisted of 12 months, followed by 5 or 6 “complementary days.”

The names of the days of the 10-day week were quite practical:

  • primidi (first day)
  • duodi (second day)
  • tridi (third day)
  • quartidi (fourth day)
  • quintidi (fifth day)
  • sextidi (sixth day)
  • septidi (seventh day)
  • octidi (eighth day)
  • nonidi (ninth day)
  • décadi (tenth day)
French Revolutionary pocket watch, showing decimal time.

The names for the new names for the months came from poet Philippe François Nazaire Fabre, known as Fabre d’Eglantine (1750-1794). He was inspired by the seasons and their effect on nature. The year began with the month of Vendémiaire (from the Latin ‘vindemia’, grape harvest) (22 September to 21 October). This was followed by the months of Brumaire (from the French ‘brume’, fog) and Frimaire (from the French ‘frimas’, hoarfrost); then Nivôse (from the Latin ‘nivosus’, snowy), Pluviôse (from the Latin ‘pluviosus’, rainy), and Ventôse (from the Latin ‘ventosus’, windy); following that, Germinal (from the Latin ‘germen, germinis’ a bud), Floréal (from the Latin ‘floreus’, flowery) and Prairial (from the French ‘prairie’, meadow); and finally Messidor(from the Latin ‘messis’, corn harvest and the Greek ‘doron’, gift), Thermidor (from the Greek ‘thermon’ heat and the Greek ‘doron’ gift) et Fructidor (from the Latin ‘fructus’, fruit and the Greek ‘doron’, gift).

Even the years received new names, each designated by a Roman numeral (the prospect of which makes the whole Y2K panic pale in comparison). The calendar was to commemorate the era of Liberty in France. If you recall anything about the French Revolution, Reign of Terror, the rise of Napoleon, the fall of Napoleon, the return of Napoleon, etc. all the way through the post-World War II years, you know that French governments have never been a model of stability. Since French authorities could never agree about who was responsible for bringing liberty to the land, they struggled with assigning a beginning date for the era of liberty.

The National Constituent Assembly intended the beginning to be July 14, 1789, coinciding with the storming of the Bastille. The successor to the National Constituent Assembly, the Legislative Assembly, decided on January 2, 1792, that they were in the second day of the fourth year of liberty, thus setting the beginning of Year I at January 1, 1789.

That was all well and good for 9 months. On September 21, 1792, the French First Republic was proclaimed and decided that 1792 was to be Year I. On January 2, 1793, its National Convention declared that Year II had started one day earlier.

Confused? So was everyone else. In October 1793, the National Convention revisited the matter and decided that September 22, 1792, was the first day of Year I.

See the current date and time using the French Republican Calendar at Decimal Time.

Among the goals of those who designed the calendar was the elimination of influence from the Roman Catholic Church. To that end, the calendar removed all references to saints. Instead, elements of the calendar were assigned names to correspond with an aspect of nature that was significant for that time of year. Every décadi was named after an agricultural tool. Each quintidi (a day ending in 5) was named for a common animal. The rest of the days were named for “grain, pasture, trees, roots, flowers, fruits” and other plants. The exception was the month Nivôse when the days were named after things related to the soil.

This brings us back to the introduction, wishing everyone a belated Happy Manure Day. Under the new-and-supposedly-improved system, December 28 was the day of “fumier” or “manure.” We can only assume that French schoolboys of that time did not give their teachers or parents the same kind of grief their contemporaries would with all of the bathroom humor such a day presents.

The nature-inspired names on the calendar resulted in it being called the “Rural Calendar.” The dates, names, and corresponding Gregorian Calendar dates, are as follows:

Vendémiaire
(September 22 – October 21)

  1. 22-Sep Raisin (Grape)
  2. 23-Sep Safran (Saffron)
  3. 24-Sep Châtaigne (Chestnut)
  4. 25-Sep Colchique (Autumn Crocus)
  5. 26-Sep Cheval (Horse)
  6. 27-Sep Balsamine (Impatiens)
  7. 28-Sep Carotte (Carrot)
  8. 29-Sep Amaranthe (Amaranth)
  9. 30-Sep Panais (Parsnip)
  10. 1-Oct Cuve (Vat)
  11. 2-Oct Pomme de terre (Potato)
  12. 3-Oct Immortelle (Strawflower)
  13. 4-Oct Potiron (Winter squash)
  14. 5-Oct Réséda (Mignonette)
  15. 6-Oct Âne (Donkey)
  16. 7-Oct Belle de nuit (Four o’clock flower)
  17. 8-Oct Citrouille (Pumpkin)
  18. 9-Oct Sarrasin (Buckwheat)
  19. 10-Oct Tournesol (Sunflower)
  20. 11-Oct Pressoir (Wine-Press)
  21. 12-Oct Chanvre (Hemp)
  22. 13-Oct Pêche (Peach)
  23. 14-Oct Navet (Turnip)
  24. 15-Oct Amaryllis (Amaryllis)
  25. 16-Oct Bœuf (Ox)
  26. 17-Oct Aubergine (Eggplant)
  27. 18-Oct Piment (Chili pepper)
  28. 19-Oct Tomate (Tomato)
  29. 20-Oct Orge (Barley)
  30. 21-Oct Tonneau (Barrel)

Brumaire
(October 22 – November 20)

  1. 22-Oct Pomme (Apple)
  2. 23-Oct Céleri (Celery)
  3. 24-Oct Poire (Pear)
  4. 25-Oct Betterave (Beetroot)
  5. 26-Oct Oie (Goose)
  6. 27-Oct Héliotrope (Heliotrope)
  7. 28-Oct Figue (Common fig)
  8. 29-Oct Scorsonère (Black Salsify)
  9. 30-Oct Alisier (Chequer Tree)
  10. 31-Oct Charrue (Plough)
  11. 1-Nov Salsifis (Salsify)
  12. 2-Nov Mâcre (Water caltrop)
  13. 3-Nov Topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke)
  14. 4-Nov Endive (Endive)
  15. 5-Nov Dindon (Turkey)
  16. 6-Nov Chervis (Skirret)
  17. 7-Nov Cresson (Watercress)
  18. 8-Nov Dentelaire (Leadworts)
  19. 9-Nov Grenade (Pomegranate)
  20. 10-Nov Herse (Harrow)
  21. 11-Nov Bacchante (Baccharis)
  22. 12-Nov Azerole (Azarole)
  23. 13-Nov Garance (Madder)
  24. 14-Nov Orange (Orange)
  25. 15-Nov Faisan (Pheasant)
  26. 16-Nov Pistache (Pistachio Nut)
  27. 17-Nov Macjonc (Tuberous pea)
  28. 18-Nov Coing (Quince)
  29. 19-Nov Cormier (Service tree)
  30. 20-Nov Rouleau (Roller)

Frimaire
(November 21 – December 20)

  1. 21-Nov Raiponce (Rampion)
  2. 22-Nov Turneps (Cattle turnip)
  3. 23-Nov Chicorée (Chicory)
  4. 24-Nov Nèfle (Medlar)
  5. 25-Nov Cochon (Pig)
  6. 26-Nov Mâche (Lamb’s lettuce)
  7. 27-Nov Chou-fleur (Cauliflower)
  8. 28-Nov Miel (Honey)
  9. 29-Nov Genièvre (Juniper)
  10. 30-Nov Pioche (Pickaxe)
  11. 1-Dec Cire (Wax)
  12. 2-Dec Raifort (Horseradish)
  13. 3-Dec Cèdre (Cedar tree)
  14. 4-Dec Sapin (Fir)
  15. 5-Dec Chevreuil (Roe deer)
  16. 6-Dec Ajonc (Gorse)
  17. 7-Dec Cyprès (Cypress Tree)
  18. 8-Dec Lierre (Ivy)
  19. 9-Dec Sabine (Savin Juniper)
  20. 10-Dec Hoyau (Grub-hoe)
  21. 11-Dec Érable à sucre (Sugar Maple)
  22. 12-Dec Bruyère (Heather)
  23. 13-Dec Roseau (Reed plant)
  24. 14-Dec Oseille (Sorrel)
  25. 15-Dec Grillon (Cricket)
  26. 16-Dec Pignon (Pine nut)
  27. 17-Dec Liège (Cork)
  28. 18-Dec Truffe (Truffle)
  29. 19-Dec Olive (Olive)
  30. 20-Dec Pelle (Shovel)

Nivôse
(December 21 – January 19)

  1. 21-Dec Tourbe (Peat)
  2. 22-Dec Houille (Coal)
  3. 23-Dec Bitume (Bitumen)
  4. 24-Dec Soufre (Sulphur)
  5. 25-Dec Chien (Dog)
  6. 26-Dec Lave (Lava)
  7. 27-Dec Terre végétale (Topsoil)
  8. 28-Dec Fumier (Manure)
  9. 29-Dec Salpêtre (Saltpeter)
  10. 30-Dec Fléau (Flail)
  11. 31-Dec Granit (Granite)
  12. 1-Jan Argile (Clay)
  13. 2-Jan Ardoise (Slate)
  14. 3-Jan Grès (Sandstone)
  15. 4-Jan Lapin (Rabbit)
  16. 5-Jan Silex (Flint)
  17. 6-Jan Marne (Marl)
  18. 7-Jan Pierre à chaux (Limestone)
  19. 8-Jan Marbre (Marble)
  20. 9-Jan Van (Winnowing fan)
  21. 10-Jan Pierre à plâtre (Gypsum)
  22. 11-Jan Sel (Salt)
  23. 12-Jan Fer (Iron)
  24. 13-Jan Cuivre (Copper)
  25. 14-Jan Chat (Cat)
  26. 15-Jan Étain (Tin)
  27. 16-Jan Plomb (Lead)
  28. 17-Jan Zinc (Zinc)
  29. 18-Jan Mercure (Mercury)
  30. 19-Jan Crible (Sieve)

Pluviôse
(January 20 – February 18)

  1. 20-Jan Lauréole (Spurge-laurel)
  2. 21-Jan Mousse (Moss)
  3. 22-Jan Fragon (Butcher’s Broom)
  4. 23-Jan Perce-neige (Snowdrop)
  5. 24-Jan Taureau (Bull)
  6. 25-Jan Laurier-thym (Laurustinus)
  7. 26-Jan Amadouvier (Tinder polypore)
  8. 27-Jan Mézéréon (Daphne mezereum)
  9. 28-Jan Peuplier (Poplar)
  10. 29-Jan Coignée (Axe)
  11. 30-Jan Ellébore (Hellebore)
  12. 31-Jan Brocoli (Broccoli)
  13. 1-Feb Laurier (Bay laurel)
  14. 2-Feb Avelinier (Filbert)
  15. 3-Feb Vache (Cow)
  16. 4-Feb Buis (Box Tree)
  17. 5-Feb Lichen (Lichen)
  18. 6-Feb If (Yew tree)
  19. 7-Feb Pulmonaire (Lungwort)
  20. 8-Feb Serpette (Billhook)
  21. 9-Feb Thlaspi (Pennycress)
  22. 10-Feb Thimelé (Rose Daphne)
  23. 11-Feb Chiendent (Couch grass)
  24. 12-Feb Trainasse (Common Knotgrass)
  25. 13-Feb Lièvre (Hare)
  26. 14-Feb Guède (Woad)
  27. 15-Feb Noisetier (Hazel)
  28. 16-Feb Cyclamen (Cyclamen)
  29. 17-Feb Chélidoine (Celandine)
  30. 18-Feb Traîneau (Sleigh)

Ventôse
(February 19 – March 20)

  1. 19-Feb Tussilage (Coltsfoot)
  2. 20-Feb Cornouiller (Dogwood)
  3. 21-Feb Violier (Matthiola)
  4. 22-Feb Troène (Privet)
  5. 23-Feb Bouc (Billygoat)
  6. 24-Feb Asaret (Wild Ginger)
  7. 25-Feb Alaterne (Italian Buckthorn)
  8. 26-Feb Violette (Violet)
  9. 27-Feb Marceau (Goat Willow)
  10. 28-Feb Bêche (Spade)
  11. 1-Mar Narcisse (Narcissus)
  12. 2-Mar Orme (Elm)
  13. 3-Mar Fumeterre (Common fumitory)
  14. 4-Mar Vélar (Hedge mustard)
  15. 5-Mar Chèvre (Goat)
  16. 6-Mar Épinard (Spinach)
  17. 7-Mar Doronic (Doronicum)
  18. 8-Mar Mouron (Pimpernel)
  19. 9-Mar Cerfeuil (Chervil)
  20. 10-Mar Cordeau (Gardener’s Line)
  21. 11-Mar Mandragore (Mandrake)
  22. 12-Mar Persil (Parsley)
  23. 13-Mar Cochléaria (Scurvy-grass)
  24. 14-Mar Pâquerette (Daisy)
  25. 15-Mar Thon (Tuna)
  26. 16-Mar Pissenlit (Dandelion)
  27. 17-Mar Sylvie (Wood Anemone)
  28. 18-Mar Capillaire (Maidenhair fern)
  29. 19-Mar Frêne (Ash tree)
  30. 20-Mar Plantoir (Dibber)

Germinal
(21 March – 19 April)

  1. 21-Mar Primevère (Primrose)
  2. 22-Mar Platane (Plane Tree)
  3. 23-Mar Asperge (Asparagus)
  4. 24-Mar Tulipe (Tulip)
  5. 25-Mar Poule (Hen)
  6. 26-Mar Bette (Chard)
  7. 27-Mar Bouleau (Birch)
  8. 28-Mar Jonquille (Daffodil)
  9. 29-Mar Aulne (Alder)
  10. 30-Mar Couvoir (Incubator)
  11. 31-Mar Pervenche (Periwinkle)
  12. 1-Apr Charme (Hornbeam)
  13. 2-Apr Morille (Morel)
  14. 3-Apr Hêtre (Beech Tree)
  15. 4-Apr Abeille (Bee)
  16. 5-Apr Laitue (Lettuce)
  17. 6-Apr Mélèze (Larch)
  18. 7-Apr Ciguë (Hemlock)
  19. 8-Apr Radis (Radish)
  20. 9-Apr Ruche (Hive)
  21. 10-Apr Gainier (Judas tree)
  22. 11-Apr Romaine (Romaine lettuce)
  23. 12-Apr Marronnier (Horse chestnut)
  24. 13-Apr Roquette (Arugula or Rocket)
  25. 14-Apr Pigeon (Pigeon)
  26. 15-Apr Lilas (Lilac)
  27. 16-Apr Anémone (Anemone)
  28. 17-Apr Pensée (Pansy)
  29. 18-Apr Myrtille (Bilberry)
  30. 19-Apr Greffoir (Grafting knife)

Floréal
(20 April – 19 May)

  1. 20-Apr Rose (Rose)
  2. 21-Apr Chêne (Oak Tree)
  3. 22-Apr Fougère (Fern)
  4. 23-Apr Aubépine (Hawthorn)
  5. 24-Apr Rossignol (Nightingale)
  6. 25-Apr Ancolie (Common Columbine)
  7. 26-Apr Muguet (Lily of the valley)
  8. 27-Apr Champignon (Button mushroom)
  9. 28-Apr Hyacinthe (Hyacinth)
  10. 29-Apr Râteau (Rake)
  11. 30-Apr Rhubarbe (Rhubarb)
  12. 1-May Sainfoin (Sainfoin)
  13. 2-May Bâton d’or (Wallflower)
  14. 3-May Chamerisier (Fan Palm tree)
  15. 4-May Ver à soie (Silkworm)
  16. 5-May Consoude (Comfrey)
  17. 6-May Pimprenelle (Salad burnet)
  18. 7-May Corbeille d’or (Basket of Gold)
  19. 8-May Arroche (Orache)
  20. 9-May Sarcloir (Weeding hoe)
  21. 10-May Statice (Sea thrift)
  22. 11-May Fritillaire (Fritillary)
  23. 12-May Bourrache (Borage)
  24. 13-May Valériane (Valerian)
  25. 14-May Carpe (Carp)
  26. 15-May Fusain (Spindle (shrub))
  27. 16-May Civette (Chive)
  28. 17-May Buglosse (Bugloss)
  29. 18-May Sénevé (White mustard)
  30. 19-May Houlette (Shepherd’s crook)

Prairial
(20 May – 18 June)

  1. 20-May Luzerne (Alfalfa)
  2. 21-May Hémérocalle (Daylily)
  3. 22-May Trèfle (Clover)
  4. 23-May Angélique (Angelica)
  5. 24-May Canard (Duck)
  6. 25-May Mélisse (Lemon balm)
  7. 26-May Fromental (Oat grass)
  8. 27-May Martagon (Martagon lily)
  9. 28-May Serpolet (Wild Thyme)
  10. 29-May Faux (Scythe)
  11. 30-May Fraise (Strawberry)
  12. 31-May Bétoine (Betony)
  13. 1-Jun Pois (Pea)
  14. 2-Jun Acacia (Acacia)
  15. 3-Jun Caille (Quail)
  16. 4-Jun Œillet (Carnation)
  17. 5-Jun Sureau (Elderberry)
  18. 6-Jun Pavot (Poppy plant)
  19. 7-Jun Tilleul (Linden or Lime tree)
  20. 8-Jun Fourche (Pitchfork)
  21. 9-Jun Barbeau (Cornflower)
  22. 10-Jun Camomille (Camomile)
  23. 11-Jun Chèvrefeuille (Honeysuckle)
  24. 12-Jun Caille-lait (Bedstraw)
  25. 13-Jun Tanche (Tench)
  26. 14-Jun Jasmin (Jasmine)
  27. 15-Jun Verveine (Verbena)
  28. 16-Jun Thym (Thyme)
  29. 17-Jun Pivoine (Peony)
  30. 18-Jun Chariot (Hand Cart)

Messidor
(19 June – 18 July)

  1. 19-Jun Seigle (Rye)
  2. 20-Jun Avoine (Oat)
  3. 21-Jun Oignon (Onion)
  4. 22-Jun Véronique (Speedwell)
  5. 23-Jun Mulet (Mule)
  6. 24-Jun Romarin (Rosemary)
  7. 25-Jun Concombre (Cucumber)
  8. 26-Jun Échalote (Shallot)
  9. 27-Jun Absinthe (Wormwood)
  10. 28-Jun Faucille (Sickle)
  11. 29-Jun Coriandre (Coriander)
  12. 30-Jun Artichaut (Artichoke)
  13. 1-Jul Girofle (Clove)
  14. 2-Jul Lavande (Lavender)
  15. 3-Jul Chamois (Chamois)
  16. 4-Jul Tabac (Tobacco)
  17. 5-Jul Groseille (Redcurrant)
  18. 6-Jul Gesse (Hairy Vetchling)
  19. 7-Jul Cerise (Cherry)
  20. 8-Jul Parc (Park)
  21. 9-Jul Menthe (Mint)
  22. 10-Jul Cumin (Cumin)
  23. 11-Jul Haricot (Bean)
  24. 12-Jul Orcanète (Alkanet)
  25. 13-Jul Pintade (Guineafowl)
  26. 14-Jul Sauge (Sage)
  27. 15-Jul Ail (Garlic)
  28. 16-Jul Vesce (Tare)
  29. 17-Jul Blé (Wheat)
  30. 18-Jul Chalémie (Shawm)

Thermidor
(19 July – 17 August)

  1. 19-Jul Épeautre (Spelt)
  2. 20-Jul Bouillon blanc (Common mullein)
  3. 21-Jul Melon (Melon)
  4. 22-Jul Ivraie (Ryegrass)
  5. 23-Jul Bélier (Ram)
  6. 24-Jul Prêle (Horsetail)
  7. 25-Jul Armoise (Mugwort)
  8. 26-Jul Carthame (Safflower)
  9. 27-Jul Mûre (Blackberry)
  10. 28-Jul Arrosoir (Watering can)
  11. 29-Jul Panic (Foxtail millet)
  12. 30-Jul Salicorne (Common Glasswort)
  13. 31-Jul Abricot (Apricot)
  14. 1-Aug Basilic (Basil)
  15. 2-Aug Brebis (Ewe)
  16. 3-Aug Guimauve (Marshmallow)
  17. 4-Aug Lin (Flax)
  18. 5-Aug Amande (Almond)
  19. 6-Aug Gentiane (Gentian)
  20. 7-Aug Écluse (Lock)
  21. 8-Aug Carline (Carline thistle)
  22. 9-Aug Câprier (Caper)
  23. 10-Aug Lentille (Lentil)
  24. 11-Aug Aunée (Inula)
  25. 12-Aug Loutre (Otter)
  26. 13-Aug Myrte (Myrtle)
  27. 14-Aug Colza (Rapeseed)
  28. 15-Aug Lupin (Lupin)
  29. 16-Aug Coton (Cotton)
  30. 17-Aug Moulin (Mill)

Fructidor
(18 August – 16 September)

  1. 18-Aug Prune (Plum)
  2. 19-Aug Millet (Millet)
  3. 20-Aug Lycoperdon (Puffball)
  4. 21-Aug Escourgeon (Six-row Barley)
  5. 22-Aug Saumon (Salmon)
  6. 23-Aug Tubéreuse (Tuberose)
  7. 24-Aug Sucrion (Winter Barley)
  8. 25-Aug Apocyn (Apocynum)
  9. 26-Aug Réglisse (Liquorice)
  10. 27-Aug Échelle (Ladder)
  11. 28-Aug Pastèque (Watermelon)
  12. 29-Aug Fenouil (Fennel)
  13. 30-Aug Épine vinette (European Barberry)
  14. 31-Aug Noix (Walnut)
  15. 1-Sep Truite (Trout)
  16. 2-Sep Citron (Lemon)
  17. 3-Sep Cardère (Teasel)
  18. 4-Sep Nerprun (Buckthorn)
  19. 5-Sep Tagette (Mexican Marigold)
  20. 6-Sep Hotte (Harvesting basket)
  21. 7-Sep Églantier (Wild Rose)
  22. 8-Sep Noisette (Hazelnut)
  23. 9-Sep Houblon (Hops)
  24. 10-Sep Sorgho (Sorghum)
  25. 11-Sep Écrevisse (Crayfish)
  26. 12-Sep Bigarade (Bitter orange)
  27. 13-Sep Verge d’or (Goldenrod)
  28. 14-Sep Maïs (Maize or Corn)
  29. 15-Sep Marron (Sweet Chestnut)
  30. 16-Sep Panier (Pack Basket)

Despite the short life of the unpopular calendar, its influence can be seen in the historic and cultural nomenclature:

  • The “18 Brumaire” or “Brumaire” was Napoleon’s coup on 18 Brumaire An VIII (November 9, 1799). In the eyes of many, this is the date that ended the French Revolution. Karl Marx’s referred to this in his 1852 essay “The Eighteenth Brumaire” in which he coined the phrase, “History repeats … first as tragedy, then as farce.”
  • 9 Thermidor An II (July 27, 1794) was the date the Convention turned against Robespierre, who was guillotined the following day. For this reason, “Thermidorian” became the label in Marxist vocabulary for revolutionaries who destroy the revolution from the inside and turn against its true aims.
  • Émile Zola’s novel Germinal takes its name from the calendar’s month of Germinal.
  • The seafood dish Lobster Thermidor was named after the 1891 play Thermidor, set during the French Revolution.

The calendar ultimately proved to be quite unpopular. There were many reasons why it failed to grab the hearts and minds of the people. A significant factor was the adoption of the 10-day week. Laborers complained that their days off went from one every seven days to one day out of ten. Another reason for its unpopularity was that it flew in the face of thousands of years of practice. People continued to use a 24-hour day for all practical purposes. Although French clockmakers produced timekeeping devices that operated on the new 10-hour day, few were sold. The mandatory use of decimal time was officially suspended on April 7, 1795.

Then there was the issue of the years. As we have already noted, there was considerable confusion about when Year I started. Aside from that, the insistence upon using Roman numerals for the years flew in the face of the decimalization theory of the rest of the calendar.

The calendar that proclaimed the “Era of Liberty” fittingly was discarded after the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor on 11 Frimaire, Year XIII (otherwise known as December 2, 1804). It sputtered along for another year under his reign until the emperor decided it represented a whole bunch of Manure Days and abolished it on January 1, 1806.


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