Who among us has not been surprised, a time or 30, by the sudden arrival of the month of March? Which can cause consternation and embarrassment for those of us who had been planning on getting around to something “next month” — and it arrives tomorrow.
The problem, of course, is that February suddenly ends, three years out of four, on February 28. Today.
We know it is so. We also know that Leap Year is the exception. When February jumps to 29.
But why is this month not 30 days? Why is it irregular? Why does it have to be?
I concede that I had never actually thought about the “why” — though I can give you chapter and verse on the need for the Leap Year day.
So, I looked it up.
(And this is typical/interesting: the wikipedia entry on February does not address why the month has only 28 days. We don’t even ask about it anymore.)
But, checking with one of those “answer” sites (which I trust even less than wikipedia), we get an answer that is, at least, believable. And perhaps even true.
The site suggests that it goes back to the Romans, during the time of empire, which makes sense, since the outline of the calendar of the Western world does, of course, go back to Rome.
Back then, February was the last month on the calendar. The year began in March, and every current month was two slots higher in the rotation. Which you can see in the prefixes to “September” and “October” and “November” and “December” — which have traces of the Latin for 7, 8, 9 and 10.
OK, but why is February short?
Apparently because the Romans, in a huge example of sucking up to the powers that be, decided that July and August — July being named for Julius Caesar and August for his successor, Augustus — were named after such important people that they needed 31 days, not 30. Big was a better tribute to the emperors. And they found the two extra days for those months by thieving them from the last month of the year, February.
That sounds believable. Yes. Though I do wonder about the psychology of it, too. Most of the northern hemisphere is sick and tired of winter, by February, and maybe it we can have March start a couple of days early we will think Spring is almost here! Maybe some tourist board in ancient Rome actually came up with this.
Anyway, I want February extended — to 30 days. So it isn’t so weird. So that March doesn’t sneak up on us year after year.
I propose taking one day from January and one from August. That would give the first quarter of the year 91 days, the second quarter 91, the third 91 and the fourth quarter 92.
Hardly anyone will miss January 31 or August 31. Though someone might suggest that a longer summer is a good idea, and August 31 is, thus, important.
But I think we just bear with whatever minor issues we have there … so that the rest of us don’t get to February 28 and realize that all the things they planned for “next month” begin tomorrow. An unpleasant surprise, even after all these centuries.
And wouldn’t it be cool to have a February 30 birthday?