Shortchanged: Why does February Have Only 28 Days?
There are a lot of things in life that you find you’ve accepted for long periods and never thought to ask why. Today’s thought is, why does February of all months have just 28 days?
On this 28th day of the shortest month of the year, it’s time to find out the why behind February being shortchanged on days compared to every other month.
Truth is, it appears many people don’t mind, especially in climates like ours because as March begins so does the hope that winter will soon come to an end. Let me be clear, I am not advocating for longer winters, just looking for an answer.
Turns out, like a large portion of history, we can blame the Romans.
"The Gregorian calendar’s oldest ancestor, the first Roman calendar, had a glaring difference in structure from its later variants: it consisted of 10 months rather than 12. In order to fully sync the calendar with the lunar year, the Roman king Numa Pompilius added January and February to the original 10 months. The previous calendar had had 6 months of 30 days and 4 months of 31, for a total of 304 days. However, Numa wanted to avoid having even numbers in his calendar, as Roman superstition at the time held that even numbers were unlucky. He subtracted a day from each of the 30-day months to make them 29. The lunar year consists of 355 days (354.367 to be exact, but calling it 354 would have made the whole year unlucky!), which meant that he now had 56 days left to work with. In the end, at least 1 month out of the 12 needed to contain an even number of days. This is because of simple mathematical fact: the sum of any even amount (12 months) of odd numbers will always equal an even number—and he wanted the total to be odd. So Numa chose February, a month that would be host to Roman rituals honoring the dead, as the unlucky month to consist of 28 days."
Obviously, that calendar wasn’t perfect in more ways than one, so the Romans went back to work to create the more modern annual calendar:
"After a few years of using the Numa Pompilius’ new 355-day calendar, the seasons and months began to fall out of sync. In an attempt to realign the two, the Romans added a 27-day leap month as needed. If Mercedonius was used, it began on February 24.
Because the leap month was inconsistent, this too had its obvious flaws. In 45 B.C., Julius Caesar commissioned an expert to create a sun-based calendar like the one the Egyptians used. The Julian Calendar added a little more than 10 days to each year, making each month either 30 or 31 days long, except for February. To account for the entire 365.25 day-long year, one day was added to February every four years, now known as a “leap year.” During most years, this left February with just 28 days."
We’ll let you know now that February 29th, a day that happens only every 4 years, has had some significant historical events occur on it. Here’s a link to events that happened on our favorite leap day - What Happened On February 29th, which include corruption discovered in Chicago in 2009, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announcing its first inductees back in 1963, and our Kansan friends getting their own state in 1861.
Sources: Britannica, Children's Museum and Events History
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