How to use ordinal date on Jekyll?

I’ve been running my personal blog for more than three years now and, during this time, I’ve been relying on Jekyll as an easy and straight forward way to build my statics.

However, last week, I’ve faced a limitation on this setup: using ordinal dates.

What’s an ordinal date

For those who aren’t aware, ordinal dates are very common on USA. It seems something like:

January 3rd, 2018

Basically, after the day, it’s added an ordinal suffix.

The problem

Jekyll has support to a large range of custom date format. A full list of supported formats and placeholders can be found here.

However, ordinal dates aren’t supported natively, since, under the hoods, Jekyll relies on Ruby’s Time#strftime method.

So, there must be a way to calculate the ordinal suffix manually and include it on the date.

First approach: Jekyll plugin

The first and more straight forward way to solve this is using a Jekyll’s plugin.

Checking Github, I’ve found this plugin, which is basically a Ruby implementation of the ordinal date.

To use that, you only need to include the plugin file into the _plugins/ directory and voilà, everything is working, right?!


Turns out that Github Pages doesn’t allow custom plugins. It’s a security measure adopted by Github team, and you can find further information here.

The workaround suggested by Github itself is to build the static files locally and, then, push the branch.

This is not a big deal, but I like the convenience of pushing my branch to Github and just get the statics build “automagically”, so I don’t have to bother about building it myself.

So, I’ve discarded this option.

The solution

My workaround is using Liquid to calculate the ordinal suffix and use it as a regular Jekyll template.

Basically, I’ve added the file _includes/date.html to my project, with the following content:

{% assign date = %}
{% assign format = include.format %}

    {% assign day = date | date: "%-d" %}

    {% capture day_ordinal %}
      {% case day %}
        {% when '1' or '21' or '31' %}{{ day }}st
        {% when '2' or '22'         %}{{ day }}nd
        {% when '3' or '23'         %}{{ day }}rd
        {% else                     %}{{ day }}th
      {% endcase %}
    {% endcapture %}

    {{ date | date: format | replace: '%o', day_ordinal }}

This template expects two parameters: the date to be formatted and the desired template.

The trick lays on the last line: after the date is formatted, Liquid replaces all the %o occurrences by the calculated ordinal day. That means, if we provide the template %B %o, %Y, the formatted date will be something like January 3rd, 2018.

The %o is just a placeholder defined by myself. You can use anything you want, as long it doesn’t conflict with the ones supported by Time#strftime.

Finally, to use this template, just add the following command, replacing [date] and [format] by their respective values:

{% include date.html date=[date] format=[format] %}

This can be a little verbose compared to the plugin approach, but I think it’s a good tradeoff, considering I don’t have to bother about building the static files manually :)

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