5 Dates You Won't Find on Your Calendar

ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

While you may be a bit fuzzy on which months have 30 days and which have 31, it’s safe to say you’re pretty familiar with the months and days of the year. But due to unusual record-keeping practices or because of months that were eliminated over the centuries, there are a few days you’ll never see on your joke-a-day calendar.

1. JANUARY 0

At midnight every New Year’s Eve, we go from December 31 to January 1. Simple, right? That’s how it works for everyone ... except astronomers. Each year, astronomers keep track of the movements of various planets and stars, which are compiled into what’s called an ephemeris. While it’s useful for things like space travel and positioning telescopes, GPS systems also use the data to properly function.

The thing about ephemerides (the plural of ephemeris) is that they don’t reference any year other than the one for which they were written. So if you had an ephemeris for the year 2000, you wouldn’t find any mention of 1999 or 2001. Generally speaking, it shouldn’t be necessary, though, since it’s only for that particular year anyway.

Except when you referenced January 1, that is. Because some more detailed ephemerides will list the previous day’s celestial positions for reference purposes, the ephemeris would have to have information for December 31. But, since the ephemeris doesn’t refer to any other year, this date will instead often be called January 0. Going back to our year 2000 example, an ephemeris for that year might list Prince’s favorite day, December 31, 1999, as January 0, 2000 instead.

It’s worth noting that many modern day ephemerides have dropped the use of January 0 entirely, but there are others that still use it.

And back in the 1920s, several groups lobbied for a calendar with 13 months, each with four weeks. To reach 365 days, their plan was to add "January 0."

2. FEBRUARY 30

You may have a friend or relative in your life whose birthday is February 29. Maybe they fudge it and celebrate on February 28 or March 1 every year, or possibly they just have a mega-party every four years. (Or they have a mega-party every year, because why not.) So imagine how frustrating it’d be to have been born in the Swedish Empire on February 30, 1712, the only day of its kind in history.

Naturally, it was a pretty complex set of events that led to February 1712 getting two leap days. Our modern, Western calendar is called the Gregorian calendar, which was developed under Pope Gregory XIII. It’s basically just a series of improvements to the Julian calendar, created by Julius Caesar.

While the Gregorian calendar was completed in 1582, adoption by many countries was slow, so it took over 100 years for the Swedish Empire (which was primarily Protestant and not Catholic) to adopt it. Because the Julian to Gregorian swap included a difference of ten days, many regions simply skipped their calendar ahead a week and a half. The Swedish Empire decided to roll out the difference more gradually, and intended to skip leap days for forty years, starting in 1700, until the calendar was finally correct.

Except that didn’t happen because, shortly afterward, war broke out and everyone forgot about the leap days until 1712, when Sweden’s King, Charles (or Karl) XII, declared that they would forget about the Gregorian calendar and just switch back to the Julian instead. Since they did manage to skip one leap day, in 1700 (which was a leap year under the Julian calendar, but not the Gregorian), they simply decided to add it back onto the calendar that February—meaning that February 1712 had two leap days according to Sweden’s calendar, which gave them the only February 30 in history. (Sweden finally went through with the Gregorian switch in 1753 and just skipped ahead a few days, like everyone else.)

3. MARCH 0

While you could think of February 30 as some weird kind of March 0, they’re not the same thing (though they do both involve leap years). If someone asked you what the day before March 1 is, you’d probably ask them, “What year?” March 0 is, like January 0, simply a reference to the day before it, but it’s useful since March 0 can be either February 28 or 29, depending on the year.

While this is occasionally used in software (some old versions of Microsoft Excel will accept 3/0 as a date and simply plug in the correct day for the particular year, for example), it’s more commonly found in something known as the Doomsday rule.

It sounds fairly ominous, but the Doomsday rule is just a method for calculating what day of the year falls on for any given date. For example, by following the Doomsday rule, you could quickly tell that January 19, 1481 was a Wednesday. How? By figuring out what creator John Conway calls “the Doomsday.” This is the day of the week that certain calendar days will always fall on in a given year. April 4, June 6, and August 8 are just a few days of the year that will always fall on that year’s Doomsday. Another big one? March 0, i.e., the final day of February.

So, using 1481 as our example again, you can use a formula to determine that its Doomsday was Monday. (For the record, 2013’s Doomsday is Thursday.) From there, we could quickly ascertain that March 0 was a Monday, and for that particular year, February only had 28 days (since it was not a leap year), making “March 0” Monday, February 28, 1481. If you’re mathematically-minded, it’s a fun challenge. If you’re not, well, you can always look the day up on the internet or use a Doomsday calculator.

4. UNDECIMBER AND DUODECIMBER

There aren’t just odd and unusual days of the year. There are entire months as well. Remember the episode of The Simpsons where the school ordered faulty calendars with a 13th month (called Smarch)? Well, as it happens, we kind of had that once upon a time—namely, those left over from the days of the Roman calendar, which preceded the aforementioned Julian calendar. Much like how the process of moving from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar left a few odd days out, the move from the Roman calendar to the Julian one actually added some.

These days, 67 in all, were then added into a pair of months between the November and December of 45 BC, and were referred to as intercalaris prior and intercalaris posterior, which are often called Undecimber (pronounced like “oon,” not “uhn”) and Duodecimber in modern days.

These names refer to the fact that December is named after the Latin word for ten (which itself came from the fact that the Roman calendar originally only had ten months and not twelve), while the Latin words for eleven and twelve (or in this case, thirteen and fourteen) are undecim and duodecim.

What’s more, the terms have even come to be used in modern computing. The Java programming language includes support for a 13-month calendar, and it refers to the 13th month as Undecimber.

5. MERCEDONIUS

Speaking of the Roman calendar, by the time Julius Caesar came along, it hadn’t had ten months for quite a while. Nearly 600 years, in fact. The Roman calendar that Caesar reformed was itself a reformed calendar constructed by King (not Emperor) Numa Pompilius sometime in the 7th century BC.

Prior to Pompilius’ changes, the Roman calendar, as we mentioned, had ten months: Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December. (Quintilis was later renamed Julius after Julius Caesar himself, while Sextilis was changed to Augustus in honor of his son/grand-nephew, Caesar Augustus.) King Numa Pompilius added Januarius and Februarius, giving us the twelve months we have today … except he also added another, forgotten month that hasn’t been in use for millennia: Mercedonius.

Mercedonius was a kind of a leap month, situated between Februarius and Martius, and was approximately 27 days. Although there was apparently some kind of formula to determine in which years Mercedonius was used and in which years it wasn’t, the implementation was spotty, since it was up to whoever the current Pontifex Maximus was at the time to decide if the month was used or not.

Since the month was used so sloppily, Julius Caesar simply eliminated it entirely when constructing the Julian calendar, rearranged the days throughout the year, and made a simple, easy-to-follow leap day system.

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

11 Unusual Christmas Traditions Around the World

A Mari Lwyd—a ghostly horse figure brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales
A Mari Lwyd—a ghostly horse figure brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales
R. fiend, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

We all know about the typical trappings of Christmas—Santa, the tree, eggnog and carols, turkey and ham, that fruitcake that’s made three trips around the country and counting. But what about traditions that are generally less well-known in America—the ones that might take place halfway around the world? Traditions like the Swedes watching the same Donald Duck cartoon each year, the Japanese devouring KFC, or Austria’s “bad Santa,” Krampus? Allow us to take you on a journey with the international Christmas traditions below.

1. Sweden // Watching Donald Duck on Television

Every year at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, around half of Sweden sits down to watch the 1958 Walt Disney TV special “From All of Us to All of You.” Known in Swedish as Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul, the title translates to “Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas.” But, really, it’s usually known as Kalle Anka. Since 1959, the show has been airing without commercial interruption at the same time every December 24 on TV1, Sweden’s main public television channel. According to Slate, it’s one of the three most popular TV events each year, and lines of the cartoon’s dialogue have become common Swedish parlance.

Slate’s Jeremy Stahl, who remembers his first Christmas visiting Sweden with his soon-to-be-wife, observes, “I was taken aback not only by the datedness of the clips (and the somewhat random dubbing) but also by how seriously my adoptive Swedish family took the show. Nobody talked, except to recite favorite lines along with the characters." Stahl notes that for many Swedes, other Christmas Eve festivities revolve around watching the show—what time they eat the Christmas meal, for example—and that, although the tradition may seem strange, it also makes some sense: “For many Swedes, there is something comforting about knowing that every year there is one hour, on one day, when you sit down with everyone in your family and just be together.”

2. Venezuela // Roller Skating to Christmas Eve Mass

Roller skates on a wooden background
xavigm/iStock via Getty Images

In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, it’s a long-established tradition to strap on your skates and roll on over to morning Christmas mass. According to Metro.co.uk, legend has it that children go to bed with a piece of string tied to their toes, with the other end dangling out the window. As the skaters glide by early the next morning, they give the strings a firm tug to let the children know it’s time to wake up and put on their skates. Firecrackers accompany the sound of the church bells, and when mass is finished, everyone gathers for food, music, and dance. The custom continues today.

3. Japan // Eating KFC on Christmas Eve

A KFC in Japan at Christmas
A KFC in Japan at Christmas
Robert Sanzalone, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Christmas isn't a widely celebrated holiday in Japan—a mere 1 percent of Japanese people are estimated to be Christian—and yet a bucket of KFC “Christmas Chicken” is the popular meal on December 24. According to the BBC, 3.6 million families celebrated this way in 2016.

It all began with a 1974 marketing campaign—“Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii” (Kentucky for Christmas). According to Smithsonian, when a group of foreigners couldn’t find Christmas turkey and opted for KFC instead, the company saw it as a fabulous marketing opportunity and advertised its first Christmas meal—chicken and wine for the equivalent of $10, which, Smithsonian notes, was rather pricey for the mid-'70s. These days, the Christmas dinner includes cake and champagne, and costs roughly $40. Many people order their meals far in advance to avoid lines; those who forget can end up waiting for as long as two hours.

4. Ukraine // Decorating the Tree with (Fake) Spiders and Webs

A Ukrainian spider web Christmas tree ornament
A Ukrainian spider web Christmas tree ornament
Marty Gabel, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to Ukrainian folklore, there was a poor family with a widowed single mother who couldn’t afford to decorate their Christmas tree. One night, as they all slept, a wonderful Christmas spider decorated the tree with a beautiful, sparkly web. The rays of the sun touched the web, turning it to silver and gold, and from that day on the family wanted for nothing. Ukrainian families decorate their trees with glittering spiders and their webs in honor of the tale.

5. Guatemala // La Quema del Diablo, “Burning the Devil”

Bonfires in Guatemala on La Quema del Diablo
Bonfires in Guatemala on La Quema del Diablo
Conred Guatemala, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Every December 7, beginning at 6 p.m. sharp, Guatemalans build bonfires to “burn the devil” and kick off their Christmas season. The tradition has particular significance in Guatemala City, according to National Geographic, due to its association with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which honors the city’s patron saint. The tradition evolved from simply lighting bonfires during colonial times to burning a devil figure to clear the way for a celebration of the Virgin Mary. In recent years, devil piñatas have been added to the festivities, too. These days, an estimated 500,000 bonfires burn in the course of an hour on the holiday, and fireworks explode across the smoky sky.

6. Catalonia // Caganer, the Pooping Christmas Figurine

A caganer figure at a Barcelona Christmas market
A caganer figure at a Barcelona Christmas market
J2R/iStock via Getty Images

A regular figure in Catalonian nativity scenes, the caganer is a bare-bottomed man with his pants around his knees as he bends over to poop. He typically wears a white shirt and a barretina, a traditional Catalan hat. The caganer most likely first appeared in nativity scenes in the early 18th century; nativity scenes in the region typically represent pastoral scenes with depictions of rural life. The caganer often appears crouched behind a tree or a building in a corner of the nativity. Caganer literally means “pooper” in Catalan, and no one is certain of his significance, though one theory is that he represents good luck and the wish for a prosperous new year, since the pooping could be construed as the fertilization of the earth. Another theory is that he represents the mischief that resides in all of us. Yet another theory: he could merely represent humility and humanity. After all, everyone poops.

7. Wales // Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare”

Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare,” is the name given to the ghostly looking horse figure often brought door-to-door between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Wales. Typically constructed of a horse skull, a white sheet, and adorned with colorful ribbons and bells, the Mari Lwyd is carried around Welsh towns by singing revelers who challenge their neighbors to a battle of wits through poetry. Atlas Obscura explains that despite often being associated with Christmas, Mari Lwyd is actually a pre-Christian practice, and some Welsh towns choose instead to parade their horse skulls on other days, such as Halloween or May Day. However, the Christmas season is the most popular time for Mari Lwyd, and the practice often includes wassailing, which involves the drinking of a boozy, sugared-and-spiced ale.

8. Austria and German-speaking Alpine region // Krampus, the Christmas Devil

Krampus characters parade on St Nicholas' day
Krampus characters parade on St Nicholas' day in Italy
dario_tommaseo/iStock via Getty Images

While well-behaved children in Austria and elsewhere look forward to St. Nicholas rewarding them with presents and sweets, those on the naughty list live in fear of Krampus. Part demon and part goat, Krampus is a “bad Santa” devil-like figure with origins in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Later, Krampus became a part of Christian traditions alongside the celebrating of St. Nick. During Krampusnacht, or “Krampus night,” right before St. Nicholas Day, adults dress up as Krampus, and Krampus might also be seen on a Krampuslauf—literally a “Krampus run.” He also appears on Christmas cards throughout Austria, and enjoys a long-held place in the country’s holiday traditions, as well as in other German-speaking areas near the Alps.

9. Iceland // The Yule Cat

Iceland has its own frightening Christmas figure, the Yule cat, which lurks in the snow and waits to devour anyone who has not received new clothes to wear for Christmas. National Geographic did some digging into the origins of this tradition, and notes that in Icelandic rural societies employers often rewarded members of their households with new clothes and sheepskin shoes each year as a way to encourage everyone to work hard in the lead-up to Christmas. “To this day Icelanders still find it important to wear new clothes on Christmas Eve when the celebrations begin,” the website writes. So, basically, the Yule cat punishes the lazy by devouring them, though, as National Geographic observes, “According to some tales, the Yule Cat only eats their food and presents, not the actual people.” Whew!

10. Greenland // Whale Blubber Dinner

Although women around the world have often traditionally prepared the Christmas meal, in Greenland the men serve the women. The main dish is mattak, strips of whale blubber, as well as kiviak, flesh from auks buried in sealskin for several months and then served once it begins to decompose. Dessert is a little more familiar: Christmas porridge garnished with butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

11. Italy // Befana, the Christmas Witch

Befana, the Christmas witch of Italy
Befana, the Christmas witch of Italy
corradobarattaphotos, iStock via Getty Images

Like Austria’s Krampus, Italy’s Christmas witch, Befana, is scary-looking—she has the warts and the sharp nose of the typical witch depiction—and yet every January 5 she leaves gifts and sweets for the good children. Of course, she also leaves coal for the naughty ones. According to legend, she swoops up the particularly bad children and brings them home to her child-eating husband. According to Vice, Italy honors Befana with festivals each year, complete with market stalls, raffles, games, and prizes. Children also write letters to Befana just as they do to Santa Claus.

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