February Information

February by Leandro Bassano,1595/1600
Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

January has been sent to the exit and we welcome February. February is the second month on the current Gregorian and the old Julian calendar. The month is the shortest on the calendar: 28 days in regular years and 29 during a leap year. Meteorologically speaking, it is the last month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. However, winter can and often does continue after February no matter what a certain groundhog indicates. February comes from Februa, a Roman ritual of cleansing.

Why the leap year?

The old Roman calendar was ten months, which began in March and ended in December. When January and February were added it meant February became the last month of the year. That meant the month had to have 28 days to fit into the calendar. A leap month was introduced every few years after February to make room for the thirteenth month. This meant February had to be shortened. As you might guess, this made things a bit confusing. Julius Caesar introduced the new calendar in 46 BC (named for him of course). He abolished the 13th month and introduced the leap year so that every fourth year, February would have 29 instead of 28 days. Thus, the leap year was born and became part of the Gregorian calendar as well.

February has some important events in it. There is Groundhog Day (Feb 2) where a groundhog comes out of its burrow in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, and its behavior determines­–if he goes back in or stays out–whether winter will last six weeks more, or spring will start early. German immigrants used to see hedgehogs coming out of hibernation as a sign of winter ending back in Germany. Unfortunately, hedgehogs are not found in the wild in Pennsylvania (or most of North America except as domesticated pets where allowed) so the groundhog became the substitute.

For many Americans, Superbowl Sunday is the big event where two top teams in the NFL duke it out. It is one the biggest sports events of the year and millions tune in to watch. Fast food places get lots of orders for delivery on that day and bars showing the game are often overflowing. And the ads for the game itself are specially tailored for the event. For everyone else (like some friends of mine), watching the original Star Wars IV, V, and VI or The Godfather I & II are that Sunday afternoon.

Of course, the other big day is Valentine’s Day on February 14 which is celebrated in the U.S. and around the world as well. Restaurants, florists, and chocolate makers all are major beneficiaries of this day set aside to show our affection to our wives, girlfriends, and others close to us.

The symbols for February are:

  • The birthstone is amethyst. It symbolizes piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity.
  • There are three birth flowers for February: the violet (Viola), the primrose (Primula vulgaris) and the Iris.

Fun fact: The first full moon of February is called the Snow Moon.