Did you know that Easter Sunday in the Roman Catholic tradition is based on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox? Without careful observations of where the Sun and Moon are located in the sky during the year it would be impossible to celebrate special or holy days (holidays). Ancient humans built monuments and buildings to help holy men and women find and mark the holy days. Astronomy, the scientific study of heavenly bodies and astrology, the study and interpretation of heavenly bodies on human behavior combine to form our modern holiday traditions and calendars.Almanacs are calendars on steroids containing compilations of hundreds of years of weather patterns, planet, stars, sun and moon positions throughout the year. In addition to the phases of the moon, these books also contain historical facts, anniversaries and birthdays of famous people, saint days, and a variety of horticulture and household tips. Doctors and dentists as well as farmers, have used the almanac to help plan operations by the location of the moon. Before my wisdom teeth were pulled Dr. Gingrich consulted the almanac. All four of my wisdom teeth were pulled during the waning (getting smaller) of the moon and I had no pain, swelling or infection!
Collection 114 of the Naperville Heritage Society at Naper Settlement contains more than 100 almanacs from 1806 – 1976. The almanacs from the 1820s are from Vermont and are presumed to have belonged to the early settlers of Naperville who came in the 1830s.
Almanacs were especially helpful to farmers who could take a look at predicted heat waves, droughts, excessive rain or snow and plan accordingly. Terms like Harvest Moon, Honeymoon, and Once-in-a-blue-moon have their origins in the moons relationship to constellations in the sky.
The number of Napervillans who might have used the almanac in the past is not known but the well-worn copies we have in the Archives illustrate that the almanacs were consulted often. The lack of almanacs after 1979 would also seem to indicate that they were less frequently used (and/or donated) by Napervillians.