You’ll see Quarter days mentioned in the press, especially the business press, but what exactly are quarter days, and when exactly are they?
Typically you’ll see the term used in this context: such-and-such a retailer is in trouble and may not be able to perform on the quarter day – leading to their probable demise. (Unfortunately there’s been rather a lot of that in the last year or so).
They are referring to paying the rent.
The Origin of Quarter Days
Traditionally – and dating back to the Middle Ages – the quarter days were the 4 dates when servants were hired and rent was paid. They fell on religious festivals every 3 months and were close to the solstices and equinoxes. Any debts were settled and recorded on the quarter days.
Interestingly, the quarter days don’t all fall on the same day of the month…
How do I remember when Quarter Days fall?
When I started in the London office business, my brand new and very senior boss, peering at me over his half-moon specs, asked me if I knew the day of the month that quarter days landed in March, June, September and December?
I owned up: I knew it was always the twenty-something in the month, but…no, I didn’t know the exact dates….
He looked at me in what can only be described as a very ungenerous way (would I still have a job on Monday?) and the following exchange ensued:
My Boss: How many letters in March?
My Boss: Hence March 25th. How many letters in June?
My Boss: Hence June 24th. How many letters on September?
My Boss: Hence September 29th….and in December…well any fool knows when Christmas Day is!
Yes, I know, he did mean me, but I have never forgotten!
Oh Happy Days!