30th February – The Day that Comes Only Once in History

Time Of Info By TOI Desk Report   February 29, 2024   Update on : February 29, 2024

30th February
Despite being unbelievable, the date was once in existence.

For many years, we have become accustomed to adjusting the year count through Leap Year every four years. Although normally a year is considered as 365 days, in the year 2024, the year count will be 366 days. This is because the current year is a Leap Year.

A Leap Year means adding an extra day at the end of February in the calendar every four years. So, the 29th of February is always a special day.

This extra day not only helps in paying bills at the end of the month but also for many, it means waiting one more day for their salary to arrive.

Those born on this date can celebrate their natural birthdays every four years. However, in history, there was only one time when February 30th existed in the calendar.

Sweden added 30th February in the calendar in the year 1712 as part of a Double Leap Year.

Now, let’s think about the people born on that date. What fate awaits them? They can hardly celebrate their true birthdays in their lifespan.

To understand why we have Leap Years and when they started, we need to delve into the history.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar introduced a calendar that laid the foundation for the modern calendar.

Why Leap Years Exist?

Leap Years, adding an extra day to the calendar every four years, originated over two thousand years ago in ancient Rome. Julius Caesar proposed this system with the help of the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes.

The initial calendar idea, presented by Julius Caesar, was not completely aligned with the solar year. The concept of leap years came into play to make the calendar more accurate.

Some believed that the Earth doesn’t take exactly 365 days to orbit the Sun, and an adjustment of 365 days and an additional five hours, 48 minutes, and 56 seconds was needed. Sosigenes suggested a calendar that added an extra day every four years to compensate for this discrepancy.

This gave birth to the Julian calendar, named in honor of Julius Caesar.

earth and sun
The Earth takes a little more than 365 days to complete one revolution around the Sun by making a full orbit.

An Extra Day

However, the Julian calendar had its flaws and wasn’t precise enough. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar to fix the discrepancies.

In the Julian calendar, the year started in March, and an extra day was added to February at the end of each four-year cycle. The word ‘leap’ comes from Latin, meaning ‘to pass over’ or, in Bengali, ‘adhivarsh.’

A few years later, Pope Gregory XIII made some adjustments, and one of them was changing the 29th of February to the 24th. This corrected the error of having ten missing days.

To avoid such imbalances in the future, the introduction of Leap Years was established.

Mathematical Solution

Following the advice of astronomer Christopher Clavius, the missing ten days between October 4, 1582, and October 15, 1582, were omitted to sync with the solar year. This eliminated the discrepancies caused by the leap years.

In essence, this rectification removed the non-uniformity in counting days, months, and years. The historical rulers had divided a year unevenly based on political and economic needs or personal desires.

So, it was necessary to harmonize these calendars with the solar year, and that’s why Leap Years were introduced in ancient Rome over two thousand years ago.

Pope Gregory
Pope Gregory XIII made some changes in 1582 to address discrepancies in his calendar.

Time’s Discrepancies

Time is primarily measured in terms of days, months, and years. This counting process is a human invention.

Observing the lunar cycles, it is found that there is a difference of a little over 29 days between two full moons.

On the other hand, based on solar orbit, Earth takes a little over 365 days to revolve around the sun, roughly like 24 hours a day.

However, there can be a discrepancy in counting due to historical reasons. Various rulers in history divided a year into several months. In other words, a year was not always 12 months; there were discrepancies in the number of months.

Those rulers adjusted the days in those months based on their political or economic needs, or their personal desires. They either added or removed days in those months as per their requirements.

As a result, it became necessary to reconcile these calendars with the solar year, which was not ignored.

Emperor Julius Caesar, around two thousand years ago, introduced a calendar similar to the one we use today.

According to that well-known Julian calendar, there were 12 months in a year. Some months had 30 days, and others had 31 days. Only February was counted as 28 or 29 days.

The year began in March because it marked the beginning of spring. Hence, February was chosen for the additional day in a leap year.

Since a year is about 365 days and a bit, the extra six hours are adjusted from that Roman time by marking it as a leap year.

Charles Philip Arthur GeorgeKing
The Emperor annuls all changes made before the twelfth Charles Calendar.

The Gregorian Calendar

This calculation has been going on for centuries, but this method is not accurate. In reality, the solar year is a bit shorter – precisely 11 minutes 14.784 seconds less.

It may not seem like a big difference instantly. However, over the years, this extra minute/second accumulates, creating a significant gap.

This is why Pope Gregory XIII made some changes in 1582 to correct the inaccuracies in his calendar.

It was mainly done for religious reasons as the discrepancy in the timing caused Easter to drift several days back and forth over a few years.

Nevertheless, not all countries adopted it simultaneously.

Those affiliated with the Catholic Church initially adopted this calendar. Instead of eliminating a leap year every four centuries, they, in 1582, skipped 10 days starting from October.

After abolishing the leap year rule in the next century, they adjusted by skipping 10 days from October to September.

In 1582, after Thursday, October 4th, came Friday, October 15th.

Other Protestant nations and empires were initially reluctant, but eventually, they too adopted the modified calendar.

The United Kingdom, the United States, and its American territories accepted the changes without much fuss. However, to align with the new calendar, in 1752, they had to skip 12 days.

They adjusted by jumping from September 2nd to September 14th.

French Revolution
During the French Revolution, attempts were made to modernize the calendar.

Sweden, Persia, and the February 30 Shift

When Sweden decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar, they did not want to abruptly discard those days. They gradually phased out those extra days, considering it appropriate.

For this reason, they added a leap day for 40 years, extending February in the Julian calendar. Although a leap year existed in 1700 according to the Julian calendar, they kept February at 28 days.

Similarly, in 1704 and 1708, there were leap years, but they still maintained February as a 28-day month.

However, due to wars and other priority matters, they forgot about not observing the leap year elimination.

A few years later, Emperor Charles XII realized that Sweden’s calendar was neither Julian nor Gregorian. So, he sternly decided to correct the calendar and nullify all previous changes.

Since they had skipped the leap year in 1700, he ordered adding an extra day after February 29, 1712, making it February 30.

This created the 30th of February for the first and only time in history, following Julius Caesar’s time, making February 30 a reality.

Soviet Union Revolution
The Soviet Union aimed to enhance proficiency in the production of revolutionary calendars.

Other February 30 Instances

In the early 1930s, the Soviet Union experimented with a revolutionary calendar. It had a five-day week and every month consisted of 30 days. Thus, by the year-end, an extra 5 or 6 days were added, called ‘holidays.’

They aimed to improve industrial productivity by eliminating the Sunday break and keeping the months consistent at 30 days.

However, this idea was quickly realized to be impractical, and the concept was abandoned.

In literature, the notion of February 30 has been mentioned. In R. Bradbury’s short story ‘The Last Night of the World,’ a significant event is said to occur on February 30.

British author J.R.R. Tolkien, in his fantasy novels ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ references February 30, creating a unique calendar for hobbits.

Although February 30 is not practically used in the real world, it has been seen in fictional works and cultural references.

29th February
Every 4 years, we find 366 days in the calendar instead of 365 days.

Calendar without Religious References

Since the latest modification in 1792 after the French Revolution, the calendar has remained unchanged. Some countries did protest for calendar reform, but the 1814 restoration brought back the Gregorian and Julian calendars.

After Napoleon’s defeat in 1814, France quickly reverted to the Gregorian calendar, abandoning the short-lived and concise version designed by Gilbert Romme during the revolutionary period.

Since then, there have been no further changes in the calendar system after the last major revision. Despite a few countries adopting various reforms, the current Gregorian calendar remains the most widely used and accepted calendar worldwide.

Thus, after the turbulent period, Sweden followed the example set by neighboring countries in North Europe and decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1753. They skipped 10 days from the calendar, aligning themselves with the latest reforms.”

Please note that this translation may not capture the nuance of the original text, but it aims to provide a straightforward and understandable version in English.


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