The Cambridge University Diary goes multi-cultural
One of the things that we teach students about the early Roman empire is the impact of imperial rule on the Roman calendar. A traditional religious festival could become also the anniversary of the day on which one of Augustus' heirs assumed his adult toga, or whatever. And they were marked as such on the publically inscribed calendars.
The little changes in the inscribed texts offer a great resource for understanding big changes in Roman culture.
So what, I wonder, will the future historian make of what has been happening to the University Diary over the last few years. For those who aren't familiar with this, the University Diary is a little pocket calendar used largely by senior members of the university -- who like it because it marks the date of Faculty Board meetings, not to mention the beginnings and ends of term and so forth.
Anyway, a few years ago the poor old diary was resolutely Christian. In addition to the University meetings (and the birthdays of a few royals), it included all those little saints' days ..St Barnabas, St Edward King and Martyr and the rest. There was little practical point, but it paraded an old fashioned English Anglicanism of the established church.
Now it has suddenly become a cornocopia of religious diversity.
For many years, it has noted major Jewish festivals -- eg "Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)". But in the last couple of years, it has become rather more embracing. Not just Judaeo-Christian. You can now find Islam (Ramadan), Hindu (Maha Shivarathri), Orthodox (Apostles Fast) and Sikh (Vaisakhi)... At first sight you would imagine that all religions were now equal, and that it would be Druidism next in our little diary.
But no. There is still a subtle set of distinctions betwen Anglican and other festivals. The Anglican feasts are noted either in capital letters or italics (I havent quite worked out what the difference is)...and they have no explanations. It's "St Swithun" or nothing, take him or leave him.
The other festivals go in the same type face as my own Faculty Board meetings and they carefully add a reference to what religion is concerned.. as in "Guru Nanak Birthday, Lunar (Sikh)". You are expected to know that St Tibb or CIRCUMCISION is UK Christian. In fact, up till a few years ago the diary assumed that its users knew that Yom Kippur was Jewish... now it writes "Jewish" in brackets.
So is this progress or not.
I am not sure, but I suspect that it will be progress when we get rid of the Duchess of Cornwall's birthday (same typeface as Ramadan), charming as she may be.