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Protestants and Eastern Orthodox countries continued to use the traditional Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian reform, one by one, after a time, at least for civil purposes and for the sake of convenience in international trade.The last European country to adopt the reform was Greece, in 1923.Although a recommendation of the First Council of Nicaea in 325 specified that all Christians should celebrate Easter on the same day, it took almost five centuries before virtually all Christians achieved that objective by adopting the rules of the Church of Alexandria (see Easter for the issues which arose).Because the date of Easter was tied to the Spring Equinox, the Roman Catholic Church considered the seasonal drift in the date of Easter undesirable.A calendar date is fully specified by the year (numbered by some scheme beyond the scope of the calendar itself), the month (identified by name or number), and the day of the month (numbered sequentially starting at 1).Although the calendar year currently runs from 1 January to 31 December, at previous times year numbers were based on a different starting point within the calendar (see the "beginning of the year" section below).involving an approximately 0.002% correction in the length of the calendar year.The motivation for the reform was to stop the drift of the calendar with respect to the equinoxes and solstices—particularly the northern vernal equinox, which helps set the date for Easter.

In the Julian calendar, the leap day was inserted by doubling 24 February, and the Gregorian reform did not change the date of the leap day.Many (but not all) countries that have traditionally used the Julian calendar, or the Islamic or other religious calendars, have come to adopt the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes.The Gregorian reform contained two parts: a reform of the Julian calendar as used prior to Pope Gregory XIII's time, and a reform of the lunar cycle used by the Church with the Julian calendar to calculate the date of Easter.That approximation built up an error of one day every 310 years, so by the 16th century the lunar calendar was out of phase with the real Moon by four days. However, the project was interrupted by the death of Regiomontanus shortly after his arrival in Rome.European scholars had been well aware of the calendar drift since the early medieval period. The increase of astronomical knowledge and the precision of observations towards the end of the 15th century made the question more pressing.

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The motivation for the adjustment was to bring the date for the celebration of Easter to the time of year in which it was celebrated when it was introduced by the early Church.