Red letter day

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A red letter day (sometimes hyphenated as red-letter day or called scarlet day in academia) is any day of special significance or opportunity. Its roots are in classical antiquity; for instance, important days are indicated in red in a calendar dating from the Roman Republic (509–27 BC).[1] In medieval manuscripts, initial capitals and highlighted words (known as rubrics) were written in red ink. The practice was continued after the invention of the printing press, including in Catholic liturgical books. Many calendars still indicate special dates and holidays in red instead of black.

On red letter days, judges of the English High Court (Queen's Bench Division) wear, at sittings of the Court of Law, their scarlet robes (see court dress). Also in the United Kingdom, other civil dates have been added to the original religious dates. These include anniversaries of the Monarch's birthday, official birthday, accession and coronation. In the universities of the UK, scarlet days are when doctors may wear their scarlet 'festal' or full dress gowns instead of their undress ('black') gown.

In the medieval times, when the Church was very powerful, one of the ways in which the Christian festivals was asked to be highlighted in the calendars in the red colour. This started the process of marking events on calendars and seems to have begun from Europe and UK.[2] In Norway, Sweden, Hong Kong and South Korea and some Latin American countries, a public holiday is sometimes referred to as "red day" (rød dag, röd dag, 빨간 날, 紅日), as it is printed in red in calendars.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Fasti Antiates". Retrieved 2018-07-25.
  2. ^ "Red letter day idiom origin". Retrieved 2018-07-25.