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February, The Best Month?

Feb 18 2024



Photo credit: Guide to Canary Islands

I know my point of view might be controversial, but I think February is a great month. In fact, February might be the best month. It’s certainly the quirkiest month with its odd number of days and that makes it interesting, to me at least, and maybe to you as well. Knowing that if your birthday only exists every 4 years, if you were born on February 29th, is pretty special. You are special on day 1! Aside from the peculiarities of our calendar and its possibilities of that simple twist of birthday fate, the days are starting to last a little longer and that gives us hope for spring even as snow storms tend to be more frequent. And then there are wonderful holidays to celebrate. The entire month is set aside to celebrate Black History here in the States, and there is much fascinating history to explore, for instance, did you know that Vermont banned slavery in 1777? Saint Valentine’s Day on February 14th is set aside to remind us that love is what makes so much of life worthwhile. School children exchange Valentine cards with their classmates, lovers exchange tokens of affection and perhaps remember what it is that they find enchanting about each other. Love is, after all, what motivates most of our actions - love of country, love of family, love of friends, love of freedom, love of the natural world, love of our fellow humans. Walk through a cemetery and you are confronted with the love for those we have lost. Love is the biggest deal.

Then, on the third Monday in February, many states in the U.S. celebrate Presidents’ Day. Until 1971, February 22nd was set aside to celebrate George Washington’s birthday and February 12th was set aside to celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. These were certainly great men and celebrating their legacy is fitting. But these are generally quiet celebrations. There are no fireworks or parades.

And this brings me to the really fun stuff! Raucous holidays are hallmarks of February. This dark sleepy, often snowy month, is full of blow out events. Lent begins (this year on February 14th), and is preceded by several weeks of singularly exuberant celebrations across the Christian world. Brazilian Carnaval this year started on February 9th, and wows Brazil with floats and extravagant, often skimpy, costumes, and music. France and Spain celebrate their own carnivals each with their own particular but less flamboyant cultural flair. Tenerife is noted for the ‘most Brazilian’ of the European carnivals with 15 days of spectacle. In Ivrea, Italy, on February 11-13, thousands of oranges are thrown, trampled and splashed in the annual pre-lent Battle of the Oranges. Venice is famous for its more elegant carnavale with emphasis on masks. Mardi Gras in New Orleans does its own wonderful particularly American, jazz infused, version of carnival. Each of these festivals is spectacular, and has in its own dynamic. Carnival and Mardi Gras are massive spectacles. When they end, the work for the next year begins the next day.


Photo: Sunphol Sorakul/Getty Images


Dragon Dance During Tet Festival in Saigon, Vietnam.

Karl Jahoaentges/Getty Images

Additionally, this year, Chinese New Year and Vietnamese New Year, Tet, are celebrated on February 10th. These are big noisy and colorful celebrations complete with dragons and parades and important time with family.

The truth is, I always dreaded winter, especially February. It always seemed to be the dreariest of months. The adrenaline of Thanksgiving and Christmas, that kept us going through the darkest, shortest days of winter are over and January is a month for recuperating and getting back to work, school and routines. Then February comes and where I live, there is no carnival and the New Year is well in the rear view mirror. But, all of this fantastic, outrageous, pre-lent celebration combined with our other historic homage to great leaders has re-framed my own point of view on February. It’s a pretty great month.

We would love your stories about your experiences at Carnival, Mardi Gras, Chinese or Tet New Year or about paying homage to African Americans, George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln. It’s a great month with lots to celebrate and lots and lots of stories to tell. We are looking forward to reading your February stories.