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St Cassian: 29 February

To think about the months of the year especially February and the moral behind the legend of St Cassian.

by Jan Edmunds

Suitable for Key Stage 1


To think about the months of the year especially February and the moral behind the legend of St Cassian.

Preparation and materials

  • Write the names of the months of the year on 12 A4 sheets of card.

  • An OHP for reading the verse.


  1. Ask the children if they know what month it is. Choose the first child with the correct answer and offer him/her a card. Give out the other cards in any order to 11 other children. Ask this group to arrange themselves in the correct order for the months of the year.
  2. This is a good opportunity to say the months of the year. I found chanting them using a train rhythm helped with their sequence.

    Start off slowly from the station. Use the arms to help the image of rotating engine wheels.

    Jan-uary, Feb-ruary, Mar-ch (emphasize the ‘ch’ sound)
    Ap-ril, M-ay, J-une, Ju-ly, Aug-ust (increase the speed slightly)
    September, October (more speed, emphasizing the syllables) 
    (Fastest of all!) November, December. Whoooooooo! Whoooooooo!

    The children are usually keen to join in. This method is fun to use and an easy way for children to learn the order.
  3. Ask the children, which is the shortest month? Do they know how many days there are in that month? Ask ‘February’ to step forward. This poem might help them to remember.

    Thirty days hath September, April, June and November.
    All the rest have thirty-one, that’s easy to remember.
    February is the shortest month, with twenty-eight days to show,
    In leap year, every four years, to twenty-nine they’ll grow.
  4. Ask your helpers to sit down. Then introduce the story, which is based on an old Ukrainian folk tale. People believed that it explained why there are 29 days in February every four years

    The story of St Cassian
    There was once a poor man who set out for market with his donkey and cart. He wanted to sell some of the vegetables he had grown so as to provide money for his family for the winter.

    On the way his cart became stuck in some deep mud. The man pulled and pushed, he whipped his donkey, but the cart sank deeper and deeper into the mud.

    After a while two holy men came along. They were called St Nicholas and St Cassian. The poor man asked them for help, knowing that if he did not sell his vegetables his family would starve.

    St Nicholas could immediately see the poor man’s problem and took pity on him. He pitched in to help, despite getting very muddy. However, St Cassian didn’t want to get himself dirty. ‘I don’t want to get my nice clean clothes dirty,’ he said.

    St Nicholas and the man together managed to free the donkey and the cart from the mud. The poor man was so grateful and thanked St Nicholas before he went on his way. And St Nicholas and St Cassian went on their way together.

    All this time someone had been watching what was going on. His name was St Peter. He then watched the poor man go to the market and sell his vegetables for a good profit, then go home feeling very pleased with his day’s work with money to buy food for his family.

    St Peter called the two saints to him. St Peter was deciding which saints would be given festivals, when they would be celebrated by people on earth. He said that the kindness of St Nicholas towards the poor man pleased him. He granted him two festival days every year when people would remember him.

    He then turned to St Cassian. St Peter was not pleased with the way he had treated the poor man. He decided that St Cassian would only be remembered once every four years, on 29 February. Only on that day would he be given a clean new robe, to remind him that he had not wanted to get his clothes dirty to help the poor man.
  5. If there is time you might like to discuss the story. What do the children think of St Cassian’s behaviour? You could also explain that folk tales are not really true but have been made up and handed down over many years.

Time for reflection

Dear God, help us to see the needs of other people.
Teach us to be willing to give our help even though we may not always find it easy.
Be with us this day and for evermore.


‘When I needed a neighbour’ (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: February 2010   (Vol.12 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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