7 February 2024
It may be the month with the fewest days, but there is a lot of activity jammed into February.
Two associations: the first is the groundhog seeing his/her shadow and declaring whether winter will last another six weeks or whether Spring will arrive early. Those folks who have enough time on their hands say that this is not consistently a truism. The event was brought to the United States (and Canada) by German speaking immigrants, more commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch. These days we wait for Punxsutawney Phil.
The second connection is a classic movie from 1993 starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell that has become synonymous with reliving actions until your have done the right thing and you can move on with your life.
A precursor to Groundhog Day and also on February 2, this is a religious celebration particularly in the Roman Catholic church where candles are blessed. The official title is Presentation of the Lord. Being observant Jews, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple for a Briss and blessings. Christ, the Light of the World, is celebrated by a traditional candle blessing.
An old English song tells us: “If Candlemas be fair and bright, / Come, Winter, have another flight. / If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, / Go, Winter, and come not again.” Thus echoing Groundhog Day.
St. Blaise Day
As the story goes, while being taken to prison, a mother approached Blaise, a priest and physician, with her young son who had a fish bone caught in his throat. At Blaise’s command, the child was able to cough and dislodge the bone. Thereafter Blaise is considered the patron saint of ailments of the throat. With candles just blessed the day before, there is a custom where the priest uses two white candles held in the shape of an X and with a red ribbon at the base of the candles to offer a blessing to individuals who so desire.
Lunar New Year
In the United States this is most commonly called Chinese New Year. It is often depicted with fireworks and a Dragon Dance. This is when several individuals assemble holding poles to support a fabric body and with ornamental head and tail (almost like a full-sized puppet) and move through the streets. It is thought to bring good luck. With this Year of the Dragon, it should double in value.
Super Bowl Sunday
Begun in 1966 this is an annual event now held on the second Sunday of February that pits the league champions from the NFL and AFL. The victors receive the Vince Lombardi trophy, who coached his team to the first two victories in this contest. Expect a great half-time production, memorable commercials, and lots of parties.
The term translates into Fat Tuesday, also called Shrove Tuesday. It is the day prior to Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. Since Lent is a period of atonement, reflection, and sacrifice, the day before all this begins is a great time for a blow out party. New Orleans is famous for its celebrations. Another tradition is Pancake Day.
This is such a great day of the year to celebrate all types of love and affection. It is not just for couples, but should include friends, relatives, and even ourselves.
This begins the 40 days of Lent during which many people will atone for wrongdoings, practice acts of charity, renew their faith, perform self denial of luxuries, and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during this period.
As a part of the ceremony on this day, the priest or celebrant will mark the forehead of individuals with ashes in the form of a cross, as a reminder of our mortality and an overt expression of faith.
This year Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same date.
Starting out as separate dates honoring Washington and Lincoln, it is now a federal holiday (and many state holiday) incorporating all the POTUS we have had (good and not so good). It is currently spelled as noted here with no apostrophe although Presidents’ Day is still appropriate. Many states also honor individual presidents and then it is spelled President’s Day. Not all corporations recognize this as a holiday for their employees.
Expect some good department store and online sales.
We all know that every four years we get an extra day to balance out the calendar, but did you know that it was conceived by Julius Caesar? Yup.
The most prevalent folk tale is that St. Brigid convinced St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men, but only every four years. Whether or not that is true, the tradition stuck around, especially in societies where women had few advantages. In fact, in some cultures, if a man declined the proposal, he was penalized by having to buy the lady 12 pairs of gloves, theoretically to hide her embarrassment from not having an engagement ring.
In Scotland, it is thought unlucky to be born on a leap day and the Greeks feel it is unlucky to be wed on that date.
Black History Month
Originating in 1926 Negro History Weeks was designated as the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). Fast forward to 1969 and Kent State University who proposed Black History Month which took form a year later. It took another six years before Gerald Ford recognized the event during the Bicentennial.