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The Month of February: holidays, fun facts and folklore

12 min read

Here delicate snow-stars, out of the cloud,
Come floating downward in airy play,
Like spangles dropped from the glistening crowd
That whiten by night
the milky way.

– The Snow-Shower, by William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

What do we celebrate in February? What is this month famous for? Here’s a short list of things and February facts that you should know!

The Romans and the Celts regarded February as the start of spring.
February comes from the Latin word februa, which means “to cleanse.”
The month was named after the Roman Februalia, which was a month-long festival of purification and atonement that took place this time of year.
It is the only month to have a length of fewer than 30 days.
Though it’s usually 28 days, February is 29 days long in leap years such as 2020 and 2024.
January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar (c. 713 BC) by Numa Pompilous when the calendar was extended from ten to twelve.
Originally, February was made the last month of the calendar year. Eventually (c. 450 BC), February was moved to its place as the second month.

The Anglo Saxons called February “Sol-monath” (literally cake-month), because cakes were offered to the gods during that month. February was also known to the Saxons as “sprout-kale” from the sprouting of cabbage or kale.
Having only 28 days in non-leap years, February was known in Welsh as “y mis bach”, or the little month.
In Shakespeare’s time about 400 years ago, the second month of the year was called “Feverell” while, in Isaac Newton’s time one hundred years later it had become “Februeer”.
The modern name, February, is only about a hundred years old.

February 1 marks the Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year. 2022 is the Year of the Tiger!
Read more about Lunar New Year here.

But February 1 is also Imbolc, the second of the four great fire festivals. On this day, Brighid, the daughter of Daga, was pregnant with the seed of the Sun. She was ripe with the promise of new life, as the seeds of the earth deep within its soil begin to awaken at this time, thus signaling the return of spring.
Imbolc, which literally means “in milk”, traditionally has marked the lactation period of ewes and cows. Ewes are unable to produce milk until after they bear their young, which occurs at this time. Since milk was very important to the basic survival of the tribes, this was a time of great joy. It meant that the end of a long winter was in sight, and green pastures were only a few months away.
During the Imbolc ritual it was customary to pour milk (or cream) onto the earth.

February 2 is Groundhog Day, the day we find out whether winter will last six more weeks or call it quits early.
How did this tradition get started?

Similarly, February 2 is Candlemas. This, being the fortieth day after the birth of Christ, it was the day on which, the purification of the mother and the presentation of the son should occur. Also known in England as The Wives’ Feast.

And, according to popular folklore,
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

In any case, this ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. In olden times, many people used to say that the Christmas season lasted for forty days – until the second day of February.
CandleIt was the day of the year when all the candles that were used in the church during the coming year were brought into church and a blessing was said over them. So it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles.
Candles were important in those days not only because there was no electric lights, as some people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and famine. For Christians, they were (and still are) a reminder of something even more important. Before Jesus came to earth, it was as if everyone was ‘in the dark’. Then came Jesus with his message that he is with his followers always ready to help and comfort them, as if he is a guiding light to them in the darkness. Christians often talk of Jesus as ‘the light of the World’, and candles are lit still today during church services to remind Christians of this.

In Scotland, February 2 is also a day to celebrate Jedburgh’s Ball Game, a game played by two teams made up of ‘everyone that wants to play’. The game has very few rules and is played with a ball approximately the size of a baseball. The goal is to get the ball past a certain marker and, according to the legend, the first game was played by Scottish soldiers with an Englishman’s head.

February 3 is St. Blaize Day, the patron saint of people afflicted with throat complaints. During a ceremony at the church sufferers’ throats are blessed when touched by two candles bound together. Yes candles. Again.

13th/14th February, in Pedwell Beach, Northumberland, is the time for blessing the Salmon Nets. Close to midnight, fishermen gather on the banks of the River Tweed where the vicar of nearby Norham blesses the nets and boats.
The fishermen then set out to make their first catch of the season.

February 14 is always Valentine’s Day.
Heads up, lovebirds!
Today, the holiday is celebrated with love, flowers, and chocolate, but how did this holiday get its start?

February 15 is National Flag of Canada Day!

February 21 brings Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday also known as Washington’s Birthday that is celebrated on the third Monday in February. Well…George Washington’s actual birthday is February 22!

February is also African-American History Month. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

But did you know that one of the strangest things ever happened in England took place during the night of the 8th February 1855?
During the night, heavy snowfall blanketed the countryside and small villages of Southern Devon and, in their houses, locals huddled beneath their bedclothes on that night of intense cold. Slowly the first light of dawn came to reveal a bleak frozen landscape….and the footprints.
To the astonishment of all, when people left their houses they found thousands of mystery footsteps, in the shape of a cloven hoof, but they moved in single file. More astonishingly was the fact that they covered a distance of one hundred miles or more and went through fields, gardens, towns, and even over rooftops.
At first people were intrigued, but then became very frightened. The news swept quickly over the country and many people believed the footprints belonged to the devil.
Also London newspapers published the story and experts came to investigate the footprints, before the snow melted.
And nobody could offer any satisfactory solution to the mystery.

And what about just for fun holidays?
Well…February 1 is National Snake Day, but also National Baked Alaska Day.
February 2 is National Crêpes Day (and my birthday too, so lot of Crêpes for me..lol) while February 4 is National Working Naked Day (and please, don’t ask me why.
February 5 is World Nutella Day (yummmm), February 9 National Pizza Day and February 13 National Tortellini Day.
February 18 is National Drink Wine Day, and February 20 National Muffin Day.
February 27 is National Pokemon Day and National Strawberry Day.

In 2022, February’s full Moon reaches peak illumination at 11:59 A.M. EST on Wednesday, February 16, 2022.
It’s known as the Snow Moon due to the typically heavy snowfall that occurs in February. Other traditional Native American names for this Moon include the Eagle Moon (Cree), Raccoon Moon (Dakota), and Hungry Moon (Cherokee).
Read more here!

Even though so many roses are sold during February due to Valentine’s Day, the Violet and the Primrose are the symbolic flowers of the month.
Not many flowers bloom in February, and certainly not the traditional roses, which are at their best in June.
Wild violets show off their purple-blue petals and heart-shaped leaves in the coldest months and primroses, a small perennial woodland plant, also bloom in wintertime.

About violets, they are one of the earliest blooming plants in the spring and typically have heart-shaped leaves and asymmetrical flowers that vary in color. Many are violet, as their name suggests, while others are blue, yellow, white and cream.
Some are even bicolored, often blue and yellow.
Native to Europe and Asia, they are a genus of the Violaceae family and there are more than 400 species of violets in the genus!
The violet has been thought to symbolize modesty, faithfulness, everlasting love, innocence, remembrance.
In the Victorian era, a gift of violets was a declaration to always be true, and It still serves as a reminder of loyalty, thoughtfulness and dependability. Give a violet to someone to let them know you’ll always be there for them!
Some also believed that carrying violets might keep evil spirits at bay, while another tradition said that wearing violets on your head would alleviate inebriation.
In Christianity, violet flower symbolizes the Virgin Mary’s humility, and It is believed that the flowers blossomed when the angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would be her baby.
In religious art, violets are often portrayed as a symbol of modesty and humbleness.

Its common name, Violet, come from the Latin “viola”, which means “violet flower” or “violet color.”
The Ancient Greeks considered it a symbol of fertility and love, often using it in love potions.
Both Greeks and Romans used the flower for things like herbal remedies, wine, funeral decorations, and to sweeten food, while persians used violets as a calming agent against above all anger and headaches.
In the Middle Ages, Monks were said to have called them the “Herb of the Trinity” because of their three primary colors—purple, yellow and green.

The violet is the state flower of New Jersey, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
Most violets are edible and have certain medicinal properties which have increased their use. Violets contain salicylic acid, which is a chief ingredient in aspirin, and that’s why certain forms of violets were used as pain relievers.

About primrose, with European origins, it is part of the Primula genus, which contains more than 500 species, although it is not a member of the rose family. It is, however, one of the first blooming flowers in the spring.
The ancient Celts were thought to believe that large patches of primrose flowers were a gateway to the fairy realm.
In fact, It was once believed if you ate a primrose, you would then see a fairy.
An ancient belief stated the ability of a primrose to ward off evil spirits, and It is also thought to provide protection, safety, and love.
In some cultures, it was thought that a primrose symbolized a woman with each petal representing a different stage of her life.
In the Victorian era, a gift of primroses meant young love, while in the language of flowers, it says “I can’t live without you.”
Primrose has meaning in Norse mythology as a symbol for the goddess of love, Freya.
Moreover, rubbing primroses on the udder of a milking cow, it was once believed, would increase milk production and protect butter from being stolen (!!!).

Its name, Primula, come from the Latin word primus, meaning first, in reference to its early spring appearance.
In their native Europe, it have been long associated for its medicinal and culinary uses.
In folk medicine, it was used to treat headaches, cramps, spasms, rheumatism and gout.
In Irish folklore, a primrose leaf rubbed on a tooth for two minutes would relieve a toothache.

Although primrose is toxic to pets like dogs, cats, and horses, it is edible for humans.
Leaves and flowers can be eaten cooked or raw, or used as an herb or garnish.
Primrose can also be used to make wine and syrup.

April 19th is known as Primrose Day in England to honor the country’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and each year visitors to Westminster Abbey lay the flowers at his statue.
Also Shakespeare’s writing included a number of references to the primrose.
For example, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” he wrote of young lovers meeting “on primrose beds” while, in Hamlet, he coined “the primrose path of dalliance,” describing an easy path that leads to destruction.

Also the flower called snowdrop often appears in February, and is a symbol of hope.
According to legend, the snowdrop became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winters would never end, an angel appeared who transformed some of the snowflakes into snowdrop flowers, proving that the winters do eventually give way to the spring.

There is an old rhyme which says:
“The Snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day.”

Like the violet, February’s birthstone is a purple color, and it’s the amethyst.

At one point in its history it was reserved for royalty and has many folklore associations that date back centuries ago.
The purple variety of the quartz mineral species, it has been thought to produce strength and clarity, as well as a protection from harm.
Amethysts are a type of quartz often found in geodes amidst cooled lava and they range in color from pale lilac to deep reddish purple. It receives its purple colors from the presence of iron and natural irradiation under Earth’s surface.

The word “amethyst” come from the Greek word amethystos, meaning “not drunk” or “a remedy for drunkenness.” The Ancient Greeks, in fact, believed a person could drink all night and remain sober if they had an amethyst on their person.
Because of its wine-like color, early Greek mythology associated amethyst with Bacchus, the god of wine.
Not by chance the name is also based on a Greek myth that speaks of a nymph named Amethyst who was inadvertently turned into white stone. In remorse, the Greek god Bacchus poured wine over her to turn her a beautiful purple.

According to Christian lore, the colors of an amethyst referenced the wounds and suffering of Jesus and it was used to aid in healing wounds.
For those who celebrate a February birthday, amethyst is a symbol of personal empowerment and inner strength.
Also St. Valentine, the patron of love, is said to have worn an amethyst ring carved with the image of cupid!
Amethyst is given to celebrate a couple’s sixth wedding anniversary.
A dream of receiving an amethyst as a gift brings good luck, while a dream of giving an amethyst means you forgive the recipient.

And what about folklore?

12 – 14 February were traditionally said to be ‘borrowed’ from January. If these days were stormy, the year would be favoured with good weather: but if fine, the year’s weather would be foul. The last three days of March were said to be borrowed from April.

If the weather is fine and frosty at the close of January and the beginning of February, there is more winter ahead than behind.

When the cat lies in the sun in February
She will creep behind the stove in March.

If it thunders in February, it will frost in April.

If February give much snow,
A fine summer it doth foreshow.

Married in February’s sleety weather,
Life you’ll tread in tune together.

Fogs in February mean frosts in May.

If Candlemas Day be mild and gay
Go saddle your horses, and buy them hay
But if Candlemas Day be stormy and black,
It carries the winter away on its back.

It is better to see a troop of wolves than a fine February.

Enjoy!

Images from web – Google Research