Why is February shorter?

Have you ever wondered why February is the shortest month? OK, maybe not, but I’m going to tell you anyway!

The problem (because that’s what it was) originates from the fact that all calendars were once lunar, and the number of lunar months does not equal the solar year. Additionally, the solar year is not exactly 365 days, and this simply compounds the problem. That’s why we add an extra day occasionally to keep the calendar in line with our annual journey around the Sun.

The problem with February goes back to the Romans, and what have they ever done for us? They used a lunar calendar, but thought it would be a good idea if winter didn’t have months. eventually (around 713 BCE) they added two months (January and February) to the end of the year, because they considered the year started with the spring equinox in March.

There was still a problem for many centuries though, because there was all sorts of tinkering for all sorts of reasons. Julius Caesar eventually initiated calendar reform creating the Julian calendar, but even then there were still problems. The months now had either thirty one or thirty days, but the year was slightly too long. They resolved this by removing one day from February and returning it once every four years.

Having more or less solved the problem, they started counting leap years every three years and messed everything up again. Emperor Augustus corrected the issue, and all was well again – until it was decided to name a month after him. Now his month (I’ll leave you to work out which one) had one less day than the one honouring Julius Caesar (you can work it out), and that was out of the question.

So, what did they do? They took another day off poor February and added it to August, obviously! Hence, February has only twenty eight days, except in a leap year. There just remained a little adjustment to the months after August, so as to avoid having three consecutive months with thirty one days.

Note: Many centuries later, most of the world moved to the Gregorian calendar, but that’s another story.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January), often abbreviated as WPCU. It involves Christian communities from across the world and from almost every denomination.

There are many different Christian churches and denominations, but all have the same basic calling – to worship God, to share the good news about Jesus Christ, and to work for the good of all people. So they often need to work together, as well as co-ordinate the work they each do separately. When they do, they are acting as Churches Together. But being Churches Together means more than that. It means commitment by each church and denomination to deepen its fellowship with the others and, without losing what makes each interestingly different, to work with them towards a greater visible unity.

To help the churches live as Churches Together, a number of small organisations have been created to ease their way. There is one in almost every town or community to help them to work together locally. There are others in the regions and for each of the four nations of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. There is also an umbrella organisation in the UK, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), from which I have obtained the above information. Additionally, there is the World Council of Churches.

You can find helpful resources on the CTBI website, including for WPCU below:

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017

Reject Blue Monday

Today is the third Monday in January, a day designated as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

Unfortunately, this trivial label actually damages our understanding of mental health, just for the sake of a superficial piece of clickbait. Yes, I guess my title is itself clickbait, but if this article helps you to understand actual depression better it will have achieved its purpose.

We all know that in a normal year January can be a difficult month for our mental health (for a variety of reasons) and 2021 is not a normal year. So, even though the concept of Blue Monday appears to make sense, I feel we should reject it even more this year. The very real challenges we face this January make my premise even stronger this year, Blue Monday just isn’t real.

You’ll hear people say that it’s been worked out using a ‘scientific formula’. In fact, it first appeared as part of an advertising campaign for a holiday company, hardly the rigorous, evidence-based approach we might expect. Even the person whose name was on the original press release has since distanced himself from Blue Monday, admitting he was paid to help sell holidays. He now campaigns against Blue Monday.

Having said all that, the date continues to surface every January, and is increasingly linked to mental health and depression. In fact, it’s simply a day when we’re all supposed to feel a bit down, but even that is far-fetched if you give it some thought and view it through the lens of common sense.

A few years ago, the charity Mind attempted to dispel the myth that Blue Monday had anything to do with depression.

Depression is NOT something that happens one day and disappears the next, as if it has trivial ’causes’. Blue Monday is mumbo jumbo, pseudoscience that only serves to add to damaging preconceptions about depression and trivialises a serious illness that can be life-threatening. Depression has nothing to do with the third Monday in January.

The idea that depression is basically the same as feeling low is very pervasive within society, as if it’s ’caused’ by trivial things with the ‘cure’ a matter of ‘pulling yourself together’. Facile responses to depression, such as ‘cheer up’, merely reinforce the preconception it can easily be shaken off with determination and effort. This is not the case, depression is NOT the same as having a bad day.

Depression is way more than simply feeling a bit low, and this is what’s difficult for some people to grasp. It’s about guilt, feelings of worthlessness, lack of motivation, and a sense of emptiness, with simple tasks seemingly impossible to achieve. But there’s also the physical symptoms; headaches, aches and pains, lack of appetite, and sleep disturbances. On top of this can come insidious suicidal thoughts.

It’s an insult to think that the mental and physical complexity of depression can be encapsulated in a catchy named day. The negative things in everyday life that get us down are NOT the things that cause depression, it’s NOT something ‘catch’ from our circumstances. Yes, they can affect our mental health adversely, but they don’t cause depression. Depression can happen in good times.

The ‘why’ of depression is a complex and multi-faceted question. Please don’t trivialise it by falling for a gimmick, reject Blue Monday!

Finally, here’s a Blue Monday we mustn’t reject, enjoy! Click here.

Resolutions anyone?

New Year's Resolutions

It’s said that New Year resolutions are a to-do list for the first week of January; we might smile, but many a true word is spoken in jest.

I asked some friends on Facebook for their thoughts on New Year resolutions, and I received some interesting responses:

I don’t bother making them.

I made one many years ago, it was never to make any more. I’ve stuck to it.

I make the same one every year and break it at that exact moment. I resolve to not make any New Year Resolutions.

Are they not just a bit of a joke? I’ve never taken them seriously. I find making small goals throughout the year is a lot easier.

I see them as a declaration of good intent, sometimes purposeful but often lacking in any real commitment.

If you want to achieve something, and you are serious about it, simply set the goal whether it is New Year or not.

One of my friends followed up their initial comment with these helpful words:
I do see January as a time to start afresh and perhaps pick up things that have been dropped throughout the year. So, for example, I’m planning on starting running again having let it slip through autumn and winter. But I don’t like the pressure of New Year resolutions and the feeling of failure for having set unrealistic goals because of the apparent expectation of society to do so.

If we are going to make resolutions, we need to be realistic and set achievable goals, describing them in specific terms. Maybe large goals are best split into smaller ones, with a planned starting date and time period. It might be helpful just to focus on one or two things, rather than a whole list. Ultimately it’s about aiming for things that are important to you, not what you think you ought to do or what others expect of you. See also here.

As for my resolutions, get back into the habit of running and aim for better sleep.

Thank you Hannah, Tris, Leanne, Mark, Paul, Stephen and Emlyn for your thoughts.