February is such a confusing month; even the spelling of the word itself is confusing - just why that first ‘R’? It seems to me to not be a full month at all, even on a leap year. I always think of February as the runt month; 28 short, stunted, dark days, the only month with fewer than 30 days, the third, not the second, month of meteorological winter in the northern world. It’s the only month of the year that can pass without a single full moon. It’s the only month of the calendar that once every six years and twice every 11 years consecutively, either back into the past or forward into the future, will have four full 7-day weeks.
Yes, a confusing month.
A month out-of-time time, a month waiting for the rest of the year to begin, a dirty month waiting to cleanse an even dirtier season.
For a long time in the Roman world February and January didn’t exist because the Romans, rightly, considered winter to be a monthless period. December, January and February were one long gruelling battle against the cold and the elements for one very long month. At times February has been as short as 23 or 24 days; then the Julian calendar brought in leap years every fourth year, gaining February a regular 29th day except when the leap day is cancelled which happens because… well, I guess it’s because it can.
See I told you it was a confusing month.
Yes, once every four years the 29th day is allowed its freedom, falling upon the world for a full 24 hours before slipping back into the abyss of time to await its turn to come out again. It must be a lonely thing, the 29th of February. Only allowed out once every four years, I wonder how it spends its time? Perhaps it plays I-spy: ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘M’. Well, what else would it spy but March? Or perhaps the ‘M’ stands for marriage, as only on a leap day should a woman ever propose to a man. Mind you, if he refuses her, she becomes 12 pairs of gloves the richer to hide her ringless finger according to mediaeval law.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to be born a Leapling. A child born on the 29th only gets to celebrate its birthday every four years, so has to borrow a birthday from February 28th or March 1st. Some say that Leaplings aren’t human children at all, but children of the Elven race, brought to this reality in human form from the grey world to cause mischief. In Scotland Leap Bairns are said to be cursed and up until the 1500’s were left on the moors to die.
The month of purification, St Oswold’s month, Solmonath, mud month, kale-monath, hornung, helmikuu, the month of the pearl, the month of ice and frost, the month of the cutting of wood, the month of submerging, the month of the cabbage king.
Farewell February, February farewell… see you next year.