red letter day

red letter day

Meaning

  • a day of significance
  • an important occasion, festival or holiday
  • a birthday, anniversary or a day of remembrance
  • a memorable day
  • a special occasion
  • a festival
  • a happy and / or important day

Example Sentences

  1. The day that I started my journey towards my real career was a red-letter day for me.
  2. Tomorrow is her red letter day, she always celebrates it with a big party.
  3. Sam and Sue like to celebrate their red letter day alone and out vacationing somewhere. This time they have taken their respective parents along too.
  4. Next week we celebrate the biggest red letter day in the calendar for us, the independence of our country.

Origin

The days of importance were marked in red colour in ancient Rome since the medieval times. Many calendars still prefer to print important dates in red instead of black. Some speculate that the church in 325 AD printed Holy days in red, which may not hold much ground due to the lack of evidence in that direction. In the United Kingdom, apart from religiously important dates, dates of civil importance were also added in red in the calendar. All of these days came to know as the red letter day. The judges would dress in scarlet robes on the red letter days in UK. In a lot of other countries such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Latin America and even South Korea, public holidays are commonly referred to as red days and are printed in red.

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. But in spite of that, the first known literary reference for this phrase comes from the US. It is not clear hence about where the phrase may have been coined. Sarah Knight used it in her diary in the beginning of the 1700’s which was titled “The journals of Madam Knight, and Rev. Mr. Buckingham”. Although this was only published in the year 1940 in the book called “American Speech”.

The practice however dates back to the 1400’s and the first calendar that came out with festivals marked in red was in the year 1549 with the release of a calendar in the first “Book of Prayer” series. The term can also be used without the hyphen between the words red and letter.

Synonyms

  • scarlet day
  • red day

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