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Why Does February Have 28 Days? A Quick History of the Shortest Month


Ever wondered to yourself, “why does February have 28 days when the others have 30 or 31?” We’ve got answers about this strange, short month in this post.

In my humble opinion, February is the best month to have 28 days in it.

In the middle of a long winter, it is nice to know that after this short month comes March, and with it, there is really some hope for pleasant spring weather.

But why does February have 28 days? Or 29 days during a leap year?

And whose idea was for the month of February to be the shortest month of the year? 

Turns out, we know exactly how this happened and whom to blame.

why does february have 28 days
Taken by R. Bozhko via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

For many years in Ancient Rome, the Roman calendar was used which consisted of only 10 months. March was considered the first month of the year and December the last. The calendar was mostly used to calculate fieldwork and to know when to sow and harvest, so winter was not a period anyone would give extra thought.

But nothing good lasts forever.

In the 8th century BCE, the Roman king Numa Pompilius decided to organize a calendar reform to synchronize a calendar with the lunar year, as there are 12 lunar cycles. He introduced two additional months: January and February, with February becoming the last month of the year.

But he was not going to stop there!

In the old, 10-month calendar, six months had 30 days and four months had 31 days. However, Romans were superstitious and believed that even numbers were unlucky, so Numa decided to get rid of them once and for all, making every 30-day month only 29 days long.

But, to paraphrase Sheldon Cooper, “Oh math, thou art a heartless bitch.”

If you add an even number of odd months it makes the whole amount of days in the year even, which was unacceptable. With the lunar year being approximately 354 days, Numa decided to make it 355 days, to avoid the damned number of days and instead add one day to one of the months. The choice fell on February, the month in which the Romans honored their dead. 

So now, after shedding light on why February has only 28 days, we’ll now go further to see more changes that led February to its modern-day properties.

Obviously, after some time of the year having only 355 days, the whole system started falling out of sync. When Julius Caesar came to power he decided to play around with the calendar some more so the situation would be in order again. He took as an example the Egyptian solar calendar with 365 ¼ days and introduced a new, Julian calendar. So now each month had either 30 or 31 days, except long-suffering February, which was left with 28 days. The extra day was added every fourth year to it to make days even. 

And that’s the brief story of how February became the shortest day of the year. Thank you so much for reading, and may all your days be odd!

For more fun trivia on months, check out our article on how months got their names.

Written by
Mariia Kislitsyna
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1 comment
  • Thank you. Good article.
    QuestionA: 1) Numa extended lunar year from 354 to 355. 2) 6 months of 29 days and 4 months of 31 days = 298 days. 3) 355-298 = 57 days (31 days in jan would mean 26 days in feb, so it must have been 29 days in jan and 28 feb). Am I correct?

    QuestionB: 1) The original 10 month calendar, Mar-Dec, must have had 30*6 and 31*4 = 304 days. 2) Which 4 month have 31 days and which 6 month have 30 days?

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