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February Is the Second Month of the Year

February is the last winter month in the Northern Hemisphere, and the last summer month in the Southern Hemisphere. It is named after Februa, the Roman ritual of cleansing.

Central focus on a group of brightly colored Primroses.

The primrose is one of February’s birth flowers.


February is the second month in the Gregorian calendar and has 28 days in common years and 29 days in leap years. The next February 29 will occur in 2024.

What Is the Meaning of February?

The name February comes from the Latin Februa, the ancient Roman celebration of cleansing and fertility on the winter’s last Full Moon. The day was known as dies februatus (day of atonement) or Lupercalia. Roman priests sacrificed a ram: its blood reminded of the days of human sacrifice, its hide was regarded as a symbol of fertility.

Why Is February So Short?

The old Roman calendar had only ten months, starting in March and ending with December (Latin for “the tenth month”). When the two winter months January and February were added, February became the last month of the year and was given 28 days to fit into the calendar.

To keep up with the seasons, the Romans introduced a leap month they called Intercalaris. The extra month was added every couple of years after February, which was shortened to 23 or 24 days to make room for the thirteenth month.

In the year 46 BCE, Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar system—the Julian calendar. He abolished the Intercalaris and instead introduced what would become the leap year, where every fourth year, February had 29 days instead of 28. This was the beginning of the modern leap day.

Ancient Roman wall calendar from Antium showing all Roman months

This Roman wall calendar dating from 84-55 BCE shows “FEB” as the second month.

Photograph by Bauglir / CC BY-SA 4.0

Astronomical Events in February 2024

Leap Day: February 2024 gets an additional day, February 29, 2024. The reason? This year is a leap year with 366 days. The next February 29 will be in four years time—on February 29, 2028.

Snow Moon: The Full Moon in February is called Snow Moon after the snowy conditions in the last month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Some North American tribes traditionally called the February Moon the Hunger Moon, since there was little food in the winter months.

Events in February

Groundhog Day

February 2 is known as Groundhog Day in the USA. The official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, lives near the city of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania. When he emerges from his burrow on February 2, his behavior is said to predict the change of seasons: If he immediately returns to his burrow, six more weeks of winter will follow. Otherwise, spring is on the way.

The tradition goes back to German immigrants settling in Pennsylvania. In Germany, people spotted hedgehogs coming back to life from their winter hibernation and saw this as a sign that spring was about to start. Since hedgehogs are rare in Pennsylvania, this tradition was transferred to groundhogs.

The Super Bowl

On the first Sunday of February, the final championship game of the National Football League (NFL) is held. It is called The Super Bowl (also spelled Superbowl) or simply “Big Game.” It is the most-watched sporting event in the United States: Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 set the record for the most-watched American television program with 114.4 million viewers.

The name Super Bowl comes from the Super Ball, a bouncy rubber ball for children. Lamar Hunt, the founder of the American Football League, reportedly came up with the name after seeing his children play with the toy ball.

February Birthstone and Birth Flowers

According to tradition, the birthstone for February is the amethyst, representing piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity. Its birth flowers are the viola (Viola odorata) and the primrose (Primula vulgaris).

Zodiac Signs in February

Topics: February, Months