The Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis,1662-1782, Saint Louis Art Museum.
In Tudor England, the business year was divided into four “Quarter Days”. These dates on the English calendar -March (25th - Lady Day), June (24th Midsummer Day),
September (29th Michelmas Day) and December (25th -Christmas Day)-
were close to solstices or equinoxes and divided the Tudor year into four equal quarters. The name “Lady Day” is deceiving. It does not denote a charming celebration but a strictly legal holiday which began its celebration in 1155. It was considered the beginning of the new year until January 1st replaced it as such in 1752.
Lady Day, the Christian Feast of the Annunciation, celebrates the day when the Virgin Mary learned she had conceived the child Jesus. Lady Day falls exactly 9 months before Christmas. January 1st was traditionally viewed as the day of Christ’s circumcision and was a day for gift-giving as one of the Twelve Days of Christmas before 1752.
Paying the servants. Courtesy of elizabethan.org
Lady Day marked the start of the agricultural season. It is the quarter day closest to the vernal equinox, when there is an equal amount of light and darkness. It was also the beginning of the legal year. Lady Day was a day for the renewal of yearly contracts between landowners and tenant farmers, a time to hire servants at hiring fairs, pay wages, pay rents and settle debts, finish unresolved lawsuits, and settle accounts. Stock goods may have been bought on this day as well.