Despite being the shortest month of the calendar year, February has an interesting history. Early calendars marked the start of the new year in March, but when the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, rose to the throne in 713 BC, he synchronized the calendar to the lunar year. That required the addition of January and February.
February was named after an end-of-year celebration called ‘Februa,’ also known as ‘Februalia’ or ‘Februatio.’ Februa was a Roman festival of ritual purification and washing – a spring cleaning of sorts. This festival was later incorporated into Lupercalia, another Roman celebration that has ties to Groundhog Day.
February’s birthstone is the amethyst, which symbolizes piety, sincerity and spiritual wisdom.
January was actually added after February and was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings. Both January and February originally had 28 days. However, at the time, even numbers were considered to bring bad luck, so Pompilius added another day to January. However, February was left with 28 days and had long been considered an unlucky month. February was the last month of the year for around 200 years, until the Gregorian calendar designated January the start of the new year.
Julius Caesar is responsible for adjusting the calendar and the length of February’s length. In the Julian calendar, 10 days were added to the calendar year in various months, and February was increased every four years (leap year) to 29 days to coordinate the calendar year to the solar cycle of roughly 365.2425 days. During common years, February can pass by without a single full moon. In the northern hemisphere, February is the equivalent to the third month of winter. In the southern hemisphere, it is the third month of summer. In Finnish, February is called ‘helmikuu,’ meaning ‘month of the pearl,’ which refers to the snow melting on tree branches. During leap years, February will end on the same day that it begins.
Despite being the shortest month of the year, February is packed with events. In addition to Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, World Marriage Day, and Presidents’ Day, February is when Flag Day is celebrated in both Canada and Mexico. February also serves as Black History Month.
February is notable for many reasons and packs quite a number of activities into its few weeks.