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02/02/2020: How world marked first palindrome day in 909 years


Yesterday’s 02/02/2020 was a very special occasion — the date is a palindrome, meaning it is the same when reading forwards and backward. February 2, 2020, or 02/02/2020, in both the MM/DD/YYYY format and the DD/MM/YYYY format. At just after 2 a.m., it was 02:02:20 on 02/02/2020.

This is the only time such a date will occur this century. Maybe symmetry is inherently pleasing. Perhaps it is the whiff of cosmic clout. Or it could be that in our divided times, uniting over something as indisputable as the date is something that can’t pass unnoticed.

Palindrome derives from the Greek word for running back again and defines a number, word or phrase that is the same read forward and backward. (Think: “Madam, in Eden, I’m Adam.” or “A nut for a jar of Tuna.”)

The previous palindrome date in all formats came 909 years ago on 11/11/1111. The next will come in 101 years on 12/12/2121 and after that, there will not be another until 03/03/3030.

Palindromic dates have long been viewed as carrying special significance and even spirituality. Adding to the universal appeal and rarity of Sunday’s date is it’s achieving the eight-digit palindrome pinnacle, working in the cross-cultural formats of MM-DD-YYYY and DD-MM-YYYY.

Aziz Inan is professor of electrical engineering at the University of Portland and a palindrome aficionado. Tracing back and looking ahead over centuries, he mines palindromes like gems and says the last time we had an eight-digit palindrome date was 908 years ago on 11-11-1111. “I tell my students they are lucky to have such a date in their lifetime,” he says.

Solihull School Maths Department wrote on Twitter: “Today is a Palindrome Day in all date formats (UK, USA, ISO). It’s also a palindrome day of the year (33) and there is a palindrome number of days left in the year (333). Quite a unique day!”

The Royal Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas was advertising weddings on the “significant” date, pointing out that your two-year anniversary would fall on 2/2/22. “Two being the ultimate symbolic number representing you and your spouse to be.”

November 11, 2011, caused a major stir, when the clock struck 11:11:11 on 11/11/11. It was the only double-figure palindromic date and will not come round again for 100 years, in 2111.

However, it is not as perfect as 02/02/2020, because using the full year, 2011, ruins the symmetry.

Las Vegas chapels were bursting at the seams with couples wanting to tie the knot on 11/11/11, with “queen of nightlife” Tiffany Masters holding what she billed as the world’s largest reception.

Verizon Wireless launched its Droid Razr at 11:11 on 11/11/11 and there was even a movie “11-11-11,” about an American author plagued by strange happenings and constant sightings of the number 11.

Human brains are naturally inclined to look for patterns, and many consider such dates lucky. Daniel Hardt, president of Life Path Numerology Center in Indianapolis, called it a “powerful day.”

In September, there was a week of palindrome dates using the US format, if you removed the 20- in the year. There was 9/10/19, 9/11/1 and so on, through to 9/19/19. But of course, these only work with the US format of MM/DD/YYY.

There had been one of these every year since 2011, but that was the last of the century.

A palindrome is any word, phrase or sequence of numbers that reads the same whether you read it forward or backward, such as “mom,” “race car” or “tacocat.” Author James Joyce invented “tattarrattat,” which is supposed to be the sound of a knock on the door and the longest single-word palindrome in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Famous palindromes include “rats live on no evil star,” “never odd or even” and “a man, a plan, a canal, Panama.” The phrase “A Toyota’s a Toyota” can continue as a palindrome forever, as in, “A Toyota’s a Toyota’s a Toyota…”
Palindrome comes from the Greek words “palin,” which means “again, back” and “dromos,” meaning “running,” according to So palindrome is a word or phrase that runs back on itself.

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