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February 27, 2012

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I was just explaining to someone the other day that the Jewish calendar (based on the lunar calendar) has a "leap month" (I didn't know the word "intercalary" then!) every 2 or 3 years, which is why everyone keeps complaining that a particular Jewish holiday is getting earlier and earlier and earlier every year ... and then all of a sudden they complain that it's SO LATE this year!

Down through the ages various peoples have come up with various forms of intercalation.

The Romans, when they switched from a ten-month calendar with--what? a long grey stretch of undifferentiated winter between December and March?--to a twelve-month system, made the year a few days short. They compensated for this by having a festival of several days' duration in the middle of February every couple of years or so, with details left to the judgement of the pontifex maximus.

The founders of the French Republic, in their solemn rationality, opted for twelve thirty-day months and made up the difference by inserting scattered extra days throughout the year: festivals of virtue, labor, and so on. The extra days did not belong to any month.

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