The month of February is distinctive for a variety of reasons. It has the smallest number of days that any month has at 28, except on leap years when it has 29. The name February comes from the Latin word februare, which means "to purify," and was introduced to the calendar by a Roman king named Numa Pompilius. The Romans had February as the final month on their calendar year and had a custom of purifying themselves in preparation for the New Year. It became the second month of the year when Julius Caesar set up the Julian Calendar, which (with modifications) is essentially the same calendar we use today. The violet or primrose is the flower of February, while its birthstone is the purple amethyst.
Other facts about February are well worth knowing. There are a number of days which are celebrated during the month, the most well-known of which is Valentine's Day on the 14th, where people send cards of greeting to admired people as part of the Feast of Saint Valentine. A Christian Festival called Candlemas is celebrated on the 2nd in honour of the Virgin Mary, most prominently by the Roman Catholic Church. In the United States, Groundhog Day is celebrated on the same date as Candlemas. This celebration derives from a tradition that a ground-hog (or woodchuck)comes out of his burrow on this day. If it is sunny and the ground-hog sees its shadow, he will return to the burrow and winter will last six more weeks. If he sees no shadow, then spring is imminent.
A number of notable people were born in the month of February. The naturalist Charles Darwin (who formulated the theory of evolution) and the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (who won the American Civil War) share a birthday, February 12th 1809. Two writers who were born on the same date (February 7th) but not in the same year were the Englishman Charles Dickens (1812) and the American Sinclair Lewis (1885). Other writers born in February include the Irish novelist James Joyce (February 2nd 1882), and the French writer Jules Verne (February 8th, 1828). A number of composers were also born during this month, such as the German born Felix Mendelssohn (February 3rd, 1809) and George Frederick Handel (February 23rd, 1633), as well as the Polish Frederick Chopin (February 22nd 1810).
A great number of historical incidents have also become synonymous with the month of February. Among these are the inaugural meeting of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1790; the formation of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama in 1861, with Jefferson Davis being sworn in as provisional President of this body; the secession of New Mexico and California to the U.S. by Mexico in 1848, as per the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1913 concerning income tax; and the orbiting of the Earth in 1962 by John Glenn, the first U.S. astronaut. Thomas Edison patented his phonograph on February 19th, 1878, and the Boy Scouts were incorporated in the U.S. in 1910 on February 8th, which is why Boy Scout Day is celebrated on that day.