Are you a February baby? If so, you have the shape-shifter of the Roman calendar, which is in and of itself the product of shape-shifting. This is the month that adds or drops a notch from its belt to make every year of the oddball Roman calendar fit just right.

The Romans considered their eight-plus weeks of winter so fruitless and lacking in personality as to not even give them a name, unlike all the other periods of the year. For the longest time, there were only ten months in the year, and there was no January or February.

That is, until about 750 B.C.E.

About that time, the king thought to take the annual cycle from 10 lunar cycles with a nondescript winter to 12 lunar cycles. January and February were added, and given 28 days each. But that gave the year a total of 354 days. An even number. And an even number was considered bad news at the time. Unlucky.

Unlucky or not, the 12 month lunar calendar didn't line up well. Not well enough for months to consistently sync with the seasons.

So what's a ruler to do? One solution was to allow Roman priests to declare a patch month called Mercedonius. Kind of like a leap month. But they'd call it at random. And, as you can imagine, that didn't work out so well either. Especially with everyday people wanting to know what day it was. Talk about LOST.

Eventually, Julius Caesar scrapped the whole calendar and had it redesigned to align with the sun's cycles, rather than the moon's. This amounted to a year with 365 days. I don't know how he or his people made their decisions, but they decided to give February the short stick.

And then there's the whole leap year thing, to make up for lost time too. But that is a whole other story for a whole other blog.

Above: Julius Caesar as painted by Clara Grosche

February is host to seriously trivial observances like -- I kid you not -- Doppelgänger week. Who knew, right? 

But February's also been part, since 1998, of the international observance of The Season of Nonviolence: January 20-April 4. The period of observation, christened by Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Arun, spans from the date of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi to the date of the assassination of MLK, Jr. Again, who knew?

Above: Mohandas Gandhi

With Doppelgänger week not being launched till 2010, the folks I've listed further below couldn't have heard of it in their heyday, seeing as they were born a ways back. But they get credit for manning the seminal season of nonviolence here in the U.S. with which King was most definitely associated.

Above: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Frank Holloway, May 24, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 8, 1939.

Rick Sheviakov, July 29, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 9, 1943.

Joan Pleune, June 20, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 17, 1939.

Robert Heller, June 7, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 17, 1942.

John Lewis, May 24, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 21, 1940.

Zev Aelony, June 11, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 21, 1938.

Gordon Harris, June 25, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 24, 1938.

Raymond Randolph, Jr., June 7, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 26, 1940.

Theresa Walker, June 21, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 27, 1928.

David Myers, May 28, 1961 Freedom Rider, born February 29, 1940.

Happy birthday to these and all Freedom Riders born in February. Looks like the month turned out to be fruitful after all.

Above: John Lewis

This week's relevant rabbit holes:

Thanks to Detroit's own Marsha Music for the Blackbird reminder :)

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