The Bizarre Reason February Only Has 28 Days

No, it’s not because it’s terrible and everyone wants it to end immediately.

Calendar for month of FebruaryPhoto: Shutterstock

Why Are There Only 28 Days in February?

February is a terrible month. By the time it arrives, we’re sick of the cold, sick of our winter clothes, and in many cases, just plain old sick. Fortunately, it’s a short month—just 28 days. But why? (Check out the surprisingly dark history of Valentine’s Day.)

Turns out, it’s not because everyone in the history of the human race has hated February. The month’s quirky timing dates back to the 10-month Roman calendar, which began in March and ended in December. That’s right. For a while, January and February didn’t even exist. To the Romans, who made their lot by planting and harvesting, winter was a nameless, dateless slog. For part of the year, there was literally no system for keeping track of the days. (Discover the history behind these common superstitions.)

By the time the second king of Rome took the throne around 750 BC, the Romans decided to add two more months to their year in order to sync their calendar more accurately with the 12 lunar cycles. Those two months—January and February—had 28 days each, until the king decided to add an extra day to January to make the year 355 days long. Even numbers were considered unlucky at the time, and a 354-day year was unacceptable. (Here are 22 history lessons your teacher lied to you about.)

The calendar still had its flaws. Following the lunar cycle worked well for a few years, but soon the seasons became out of sync with their typical months. To fix it, the Romans added a leap month called Mercedonius. Rome’s high priests would decide when the month would arrive, and no one else in the city could keep track of what day it was. As you might have guessed, this was a nightmare.

When Julius Caesar took power, he reconfigured the entire thing again and aligned the length of the year with the sun, so that each year would add up to 365 days. For some reason, he left February at 28 days.

And you know what? We totally agree with that arbitrary decision. February should always be as short as possible; no one likes it that much anyway.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest