This month’s motto should be “win some, lose some.”

In February, time is on our side. Our win is the acquisition of a day. Who doesn’t need an extra day to accomplish the month’s work? This year is a leap year, one in which the month has 29 days instead of the usual 28. 

This quadrennial event keeps our calendar in alignment, and syncs up the calendar year (365 days) with the solar year (365.25 days), which is the time it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun. This inconsistency provides for a six-hour annual loss, necessitating adding a full day every four years.

There are also winners and losers in leap year traditions. In a creative arrangement, St. Brigid struck a deal with St. Patrick that allowed women to propose to men on leap years, thus balancing roles while balancing the calendars. The losers were the men who had to pay a penalty if they refused their lover’s offer.

Some hold that it is also unlucky to have been born in a leap year, and even worse on a leap day. That point is arguable since those among us born on leap day could contend that they have youth on their side since they have birthdays only once every four years.

February, as a month, is also a loser. What is lost is a lunar phase, which goes missing this month. In an odd astronomical occurrence, there is an absent moon. Generally every month has all of the four major moons, which include the new, first quarter, full and last quarter moons. 

Don’t go looking for it because you won’t see the last quarter moon. The previous last quarter moon shone on Jan. 31, while the next one will be on March 1. February was clearly forgotten, even on this longer leap year.

At least we can be thankful that we will have a February full moon, which will grace the leap month skies on Feb. 22. This moon represents the hard times of winter. In acknowledgment of them, it has been historically called the snow moon and storm moon by Native tribes, and the ice moon by the Celts. Another name — one well worth heeding — is the shoulder-to-shoulder-around-the-fire moon.

The difficulty of hunting in such weather led to some alternative names. Bone moon suggest a lack of food, a time of year when people resort to gnawing on bones and making marrow soup for nourishment, as does the straightforward term hunger moon, which is about as desperate a name as February sometimes gets!

You might be able to derive some warmth from the way calendar-keepers cook the books every fourth February just to match the planet’s motion. And fear not for that missing moon phase, for we know it will reappear in its own good time. But lastly, no matter what the calendar says, we can console ourselves with the thought that there are really no losers here, only winters.

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature.