The text begins with an introduction on the number of days and "moons" in the month. (I wonder what became of the nights in between the months?) The important liturgical feasts are written in rubric, hence the expression "red letter days", while the lesser ones are written in black. December, being a significant month in the church calendar, has a lot of red letter days. Note that there is no numbering of the days of the month. People referred to the day in relation to the saint's day or festival appropriate to it. If there was none listed, they would refer to "the day before the feast of ..." or "the Thursday after ...". So while this was a liturgical calendar, designed to order the yearly round of devotions, it was also used for the reckoning of time in common parlance.
The saints commemorated on this page are as follows. Viviana, or Bibiana as it written here, was a virgin and martyr from 4th century Rome who refused to renounce Christianity even while being beaten to death with lead-loaded whips. Barbara was an early Christian who was locked up in a tower, tortured and eventually slain by her own father, who was struck dead by lightning immediately afterwards. Nicholas was bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the 4th century. Various miracles are attributed to him, including the rescuing of sailors. His strange transformation into the modern Santa Claus is a travesty. Ambrose was a 4th century bishop of Milan who led an exemplary life in troubled times, and was supposed to have baptised St Augustine. The feast of the Conception of the Virgin Mary celebrates the belief that she herself was conceived without sin (or sex). Pope Damasus was the one who commissioned Jerome to produce his Latin translation of the Bible, among other things. St Lucy, an early Christian martyr, managed to preserve her virginity even after being thrown in a brothel, but was killed after tearing out her own eyes, which were miraculously restored.
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Calendar from a Book of Hours, c.1470. From a private collection. Photographs © Dianne Tillotson.

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