The second month of the year. There are more holidays in February than I realized! Alright, let’s get to it!
February – named for the Latin Februa, the Roman festival of purification.
February 1st – Imbolc. Celtic reference to the lactation of ewes, heralding the start of spring and the life-giving season. Festival celebrating Brigid, goddess of regeneration and abundance. Sometimes referred to as The Bride. Numerous references of fire are attributed to Brigid. Either she emerged from it, she burned as bright as it or she reigned over it. February 1st or 2nd is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. Later replaced in Christian society by…
Febrary 2nd – Candlemas. Celebration of the purification of Mary 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Celebrated with a festival of lights and blessing of the candles of the churches. Brigid, the pagan goddess was intertwined with St. Brigid who founded the first convent in Ireland. The pagan goddess became a Saint.
February 2nd – Groundhog Day. Again tying in with Imbolc. Groundhogs were considered honored ancestors by the local Delaware Indians . When German immigrants moved into the area, they brought with them the traditions of Candlemas. Germans used to watch the badger for indication of the coming forecast. In Pennsylvania, the groundhog was the local burrowing animal. If the day was clear and sunny, it meant six more weeks of wintry weather. If the groundhog did not see its shadow then it would be an early spring. Of course, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year – six more weeks of winter. Fun Fact – The groundhog is part of the squirrel family.
February 7th – Tu B’Shevat. Revolving holiday. The fifteenth day of Shevat and the New year of the Trees. Used to calculate the beginning of the agriculture cycle. Celebrated by eating grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates and reflect on the lessons we can derive from our botanical analogue.
February 14th – Valentine’s Day. Originally celebrated to honor two Saint Valentines who lived during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Roman Emperor Claudius II decreed men stay single, as they made better soldiers. One of the Saint Valentines performed secret marriages and was eventually put to death. Legend states he wrote a letter to his true love before dying and signed it “From your Valentine”. Decreed as St. Valentine’s Day by Pope Gelasius in the 5th century after outlawing the fertility celebration of Lupercalia held on the ides (15th) of February. Cupid is the Roman god of love; represented as a baby by painters during the Renaissance.
Third Monday of the Month – President’s Day. Celebration of George Washington (Feb. 22nd) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb.12th) and now encompasses a celebration for all of the former presidents of the United States. Mainly a government holiday and for some, a school holiday.
February 21st – Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday. Revolving holiday. Lupercalia is seen as the possible forefather of the celebration. It is the decadent festival before the first day of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Several cities around the world celebrate Fat Tuesday, such as Carnival in Brazil. Another holiday adopted by the church and used to celebrate merriment before the sacrifices of Lent began. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, gold and green which represent justice, power and faith respectively. King Cake is eaten during this time and originally symbolized the coming of the three wise men at the time of the Epiphany (Jan. 6th) which is the start of the Mardi Gras season. Laissez les bons temps rouler!!
February 22nd – Ash Wednesday. Revolving holiday. Beginning of Lent. Occurs 46 days before Easter and is 40 days of fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter. Faithful go to church and receives ashes as a sign of repentance and mourning for having committed a sin. Fasting is in remembrance of Jesus’ fasting before beginning his public ministry.
All month – Black History Month. February was chosen because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born. It originally started in 1920 as a week to celebrate those individuals who contributed to the history and formation of the country. In 1976, the celebration was extended to cover the entire month. Notable contributors – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks and countless others who have contributed either in deeds or sacrifices made. I hesitate to say African-American, because not all Blacks in America came from Africa.
Who knew February was so jam-packed with holiday history! I learned a few things about the celebrations I didn’t know before. If I missed something or you think of anything to add – feel free! I love learning about how we celebrate life.