1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/February

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For works with similar titles, see February.

FEBRUARY, the second month of the modern calendar. In ordinary years it contains 28 days; but in bissextile or leap year, by the addition of the intercalary day, it consists of 29 days. This month was not in the Romulian calendar. In the reign of Numa two months were added to the year, namely, January at the beginning, and February at the end; and this arrangement was continued until 452 B.C., when the decemvirs placed February after January. The ancient name of Februarius was derived from februare, to purify, or from Februa, the Roman festival of general expiation and lustration, which was celebrated during the latter part of this month. In February also the Lupercalia were held, and women were purified by the priests of Pan Lyceus at that festival. The Anglo-Saxons called this month Sprout-Kale from the sprouting of the cabbage at this season. Later it was known as Solmonath, because of the return of the sun from the low latitudes. The most generally noted days of February are the following:—the 2nd, Candlemas day, one of the fixed quarter days used in Scotland; the 14th, St Valentine’s day; and the 24th, St Matthias. The church festival of St Matthias was formerly observed on the 25th of February in bissextile years, but it is now invariably celebrated on the 24th.