February 24, 2020
Day 55 of 366
February 24th is the fifty-fifth day of the year. It is Flag Day in Mexico.
In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Tortilla Chip Day.
Historical items of note:
- In 1582, with the papal bull Inter gravissimas, Pope Gregory XIII announced the Gregorian calendar.
- In 1711, Rinaldo by George Frideric Handel premiered in London. It was the first Italian opera written for the London stage.
- In 1786, Wilhelm Grimm was born. A German anthropologist, author, and academic, he was the younger of the Brothers Grimm.
- In 1803, the Supreme Court of the United States established the principle of judicial review through the Marbury v. Madison decision.
- In 1822, The first Swaminarayan temple in the world, Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Ahmedabad, was inaugurated.
- In 1831, The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was proclaimed. It was the first removal treaty in accordance with the Indian Removal Act. The Choctaws in Mississippi ceded land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the West.
- In 1868, Andrew Johnson became the first President of the United States to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives. He was later acquitted in the Senate.
- In 1885, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was born. He was one of the few United States fleet admirals and was the leading naval authority on submarines.
- In 1920, Nancy Astor became the first woman to speak in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. She was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) three months earlier.
- In 1921, actor Abe Vigoda was born.
- In 1947, actor and director Edward James Olmos was born.
- In 1954, Sid Meier was born. He was the game designer who created the Civilization series.
- In 1955, Steve Jobs was born. He co-founded both Apple Inc. and Pixar.
- In 1980, the United States Olympic hockey team completed the “Miracle on Ice” by defeating Finland to win the gold medal.
February 24th is a wacky day with respect to calendars.
For superstitious reasons, when the Romans began to insert time into their calendar to align with the solar year, they decided not to place their extra month of Mercedonius after February but instead within it. That’s right, they put a whole month inside another one.
February 24th, which is known in the Roman calendar as “the sixth day before the Kalends [the root of calendar, meaning the first of the month] of March”, was replaced by the first day Mercedonius since it followed Terminalia, the festival of the Roman god of boundaries. After the end of Mercedonius, the rest of the days of February were observed and the new year began with the first day of March.
This process was complicated, to say the least. In fact, the overlaid religious festivals of February were so complicated that Julius Caesar chose not to change it at all during his 46 BC calendar reform. The extra day of his system’s leap years was the same as the old system, but he decided to ignore it. Instead, the sixth day before the Kalends of March was made to last for 48 hours and all the other days kept their original names.
When the extra hours were finally separated into two separate days, the leap day was still taken to be the one following the February 23rd Terminalia. Somewhere along the line, February 29th became the official Leap Day, but the Terminalia custom still exists in places around the world.
Confused yet? I know that I am. Thanks, Julius Caesar.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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