The twenty eighth of February 2019

goats

By the time February rolls around, the sparkle of the festive season is long gone, and the hopes of the new year start to feel a bit stale. Also, in many places, February has the worst weather out of the year (climate change related spring fake-outs notwithstanding). So, maybe whoever set up the way we keep track of time way back when felt the same way? Perhaps!

Throughout human history, people in different cultures and places had different conceptions of how to track the passage of time. The calendar most of us are familiar with is the Gregorian calendar, created in 1582 under the direction of Pope Gregory XIII, who was trying to solve the problem that seasons do not always change in formulaic ways and that it takes Earth 365.24219 days to revolve around the sun – making the possibility for calendrical wonkiness quite high.

So then, why is February so short? Actually, this time you can’t really blame a pope.  The origins of the calendar take us to the eighth century BC, when the smaller Roman world was organized on the calendar of Romulus – ten months of the year beginning with March on the vernal equinox. Winter was mostly unaccounted for, so you had about two months of calendrical void. To solve the issue, King Numa Pompilius added two months – January and February, and roughly organized the calendar to lunar cycles. This made more sense and you could finally schedule winter time appointments! Pompilius and other people at the time apparently thought that even numbers were unlucky and when they hashed everything out decided that if there had to be an unlucky month in order to have 355 days in  a year, it should be the shortest. By the time Julius Caesar reorganized the calendar to come to 365 days on a solar-based model, the twenty-eight day short month of February was here to stay. I suppose that over a millennia everyone from the pre-Roman Republic kings to Renaissance Popes basically agreed that this time of year is a bit of a bummer, keeping the month to 28 (sometimes 29) days a year.

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Perhaps take solace in the fact that historically, February has always kind of sucked?