Winter’s last act

February 9, 2013 

February is a throwback to more ancient times, inserted into the calendar as the second month by Numa Pompilus, second king of Rome, originally the final month of the year, named for the feast of purification. We continue the tradition.

Our early Roman kinfolk chose to believe the supreme powers decreed this the time for purgatory, insisting that mankind must suffer for the errors of his past before the keepers of the pearly gates were permitted to allow passage of those forgiven into a dream world of sunshine, sweet flowers and soft breezes, a heavenly place known as spring.

Not only did the people of the Mediterranean region consider February worthy of celebration, the Chinese have long considered the 10th day of the European’s second month as the first day of their New Year. Agreeing on time has always been tricky, even humorous, when one considers, during the Napoleonic period, the attempts by French academia to convert all measurements, including time, into a worldwide metric system. Efforts were aborted as scoffing British suggested naming any metric months with fitting names as Freezy, Breezy and Sneezy.

No matter, the naming of this capricious and shortest month of the year, February has never been accused of being dull. A whimsical month that keeps mixing days of sleet and gale with short intermissions of sunshine; man’s only escape is trimming his grapevines and preparing for spring gardens, while awaiting the flashes of welcome sun, gentle breezes and violets to return.

We still face the last full month of winter, with daylight as long as October’s, nights colder than December’s, beginning with a whimsical ground hog tradition, followed by Marti Gras carnivals, mingled with the hearts and flowers in celebration of St Valentine. February is a month that may not be entirely mad but, it’s definitely eccentric.

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