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Why Is February so Short? Blame it on the Romans!

Some facts and myths about the shortest month of the year.

Ever wonder why February only has 28 days, while all the other months have 30 or 31? Blame it on the Romans, specifically a Roman king named Numa Pompilius.

Numa established the basic Roman calendar which, back in the 8th century BC, only had 10 months. The calendar also ended with December (as in the “tenth” month). 

The Romans, however, were an agricultural people and the main purpose of the calendar was to keep track of the cycle of planting and harvesting. There were 355 days in the lunar calendar which consisted of 12 lunar cycles with leap days added in to keep the calendar lined up with the seasons. 

So to keep the Roman calendar in sync with the lunar one, Numa added two new months, January and February, to the end of the year.

Now, the Romans thought that even numbers were unlucky, so the king made seven of the calendar months 29 days long and four 31 days long. One problem: the calendar still didn’t add up to 355 days. Thus Numa reluctantly made one month short and since February, at the time, was the last month of the year, he shorted poor February (January didn’t become the first month until centuries after).

Years later, Julius Caesar reorganized the calendar again, giving it 365 days. And although myths about why February was shortchanged persist (some say Augustus Caesar pilfered a day to add to his namesake month, August), the accepted truth is that February is short because it occurred at the end of the Roman year and was the victim of the need to get the number of days to fit within an Emperor's spec.


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