February 30, 1712

As I’ve blogged about previously, making the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar necessitated some odd choices throughout Europe, but none odder than what my ancestral people — generally noted for their commitment to reason and common sense — tried to pull off early in the 18th century. I’ll let a physicist explain:

…The old Julian calendar didn’t have the rules about skipping (or not) years divisible by 100 or 400, so that’s why it got off track and countries started changing to the Gregorian. And while most countries just bit the bullet and dropped the 10 or 11 days (depending on when the change was made), Sweden tried to think different … and screwed it up. Miserably.

Swedish calendar for February 1712
Swedish calendar for February 1712 - Wikimedia

To avoid the havoc of just obliterating the large chunk of days, the Swedes decided to do it this way: just say no to leap days for 40 years, and then their calendar would be in synch with the Gregorian calendar. The problem of not lining up with either calendar didn’t dissuade them from this plan. It started out well enough — they began this in 1700, which was a leap year for the Julian but not the Gregorian calendar, so there would have been no Feb 29 with either method of adoption. But something went terribly wrong: somebody (no doubt addled by overconsumption of herring) forgot the master plan, so 1704 and 1708 both had a leap days [sic]. Rather than just go ahead with the Gregorian adoption, it was decided to go back to the Julian calendar, but an extra day would be needed, since one had been dropped in 1700. Solution? A leap day! It was added in 1712, and since 1712 was already a leap year, that meant there was a Feb. 30.

About forty years later they finally bit the bullet, did like everyone else moving to the Gregorian, and simply skipped ahead eleven days. But there’s still that lone February 30th adding a wrinkle to the history of Sweden…

But what actually happened on Feb. 30, 1712?? Try as I might (and I haven’t tried that hard, since I fear that it would involve learning Swedish), I can’t find any record of anything noteworthy happening in Sweden on that singular date.

I mean, I’m sure the following happened:

  • Someone was born and spent the rest of their life miserable at never getting a proper birthday and/or irritated at people who joked that they “didn’t look a day over 1”
  • New high and low temperature records were set — and have never been broken
  • Students assumed they didn’t actually have class, and some sadistic professor made a special point of scheduling a big test for that day
  • Lutefisk was gulped down, as every day in Sweden, by peasants wondering if curing it in a sack of lye was really the best way to prepare fish or if they were just gullibly extending a centuries-old practical joke
  • And someone muttered, “Is it March yet?”

But I’d love to know if anything of more particular historical importance transpired, never to be commemorated properly again. Submit your nominations (properly documented, of course) for the most significant event dated 2/30/1712 in the Comments section below!


3 thoughts on “February 30, 1712

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