Flowers, chocolates and all things Valentine! This is probably what pops into everyone’s head towards the end of January. For me, I prefer to look at other ways to spend my time instead of investing my efforts into a commercialised holiday, (however I welcome any treats and gifts from my loved ones!) I mean, why were we never taught about the history of February’s 28 days? It’s obviously an important part of British history which schools seem to have failed in educating us about. Well here, let me give you short but interesting introduction to the history of February’s 28 days!
Well first and foremost, we can blame the Romans for the quirks of our modern calendar. Or maybe thank them so we can get through the year quicker? It depends on how you see it. You see, the ancient Romans only had 10 months in their calendar. It began in March and ended in December. If we’d kept this calendar, we’d be wishing each other a prosperous new year on the 1st March which would be incredibly odd considering we now associate March with Mother’s day and Easter.
For some reason, the Ancient Romans didn’t include the cold winter months and experts suggest it was due to their ‘insignificance’. You see the agricultural cycle of planting and harvest was central to Ancient Roman society and couldn’t be carried out in extreme cold weather, so their year was centred on the months they could carry out agricultural activities. They also decided to synchronise their calendar with the moon, which resulted in some months having 29 days and others having 31 days.
However, around 713 BC, King Numa Pompilius added January and February to the calender, giving the year a total of 355 days. Did you know that the name February comes from the Latin word for “purification,” because a purification ritual honouring the dead was performed in that month? Well, now you do. In order to keep the calendar properly aligned with the seasons, it was necessary to add a short extra month after February every 2 to 3 years. So really, February was just a ‘filler’ month where they waited around for March to start and begin their harvest seasons.
There was yet another change to the calender by Julius Caesar. He reformed the calendar again in 45 BC, abandoning the lunar model and following the solar year of 365 days. Extra days were added to January, August, December, April, June, September, and November, but February stayed at 28. Every four years (including in 2012) an extra day is added to February to keep the year in sync with the sun. A year in which February has 29 days is called a “leap year’’. We don’t do anything special on this day; we just mention in passing at work and carry on as usual. I’d suggest making it a bank holiday so everyone has a day off!