01 February 2012


Then came cold February, sitting
In an old wagon, for he could not ride,
Drawn of two fishes, for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slide
And swim away; yet had he by his side
His plough and harness fit to till the ground,
And tools to prune the trees, before the pride
Of hasting prime did make them burgeon round - Spenser

Most references believe that this month’s name comes from the Latin februare, to “purify”, because the Roman festival of purification was celebrated in this month.  “When Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, he ordered that each alternate month from January on should have thirty-one days, and the intermediate months thirty, with the exception of February, which was given thirty days in leap-year and twenty-nine in the other years.  But Augustus, unwilling that the month named after him should be shorter than its predecessor, took a day from February and added it to August, and, in order that three months of thirty-one days should not come together, he reversed the lengths of the four succeeding months.”  William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 424.

“It is scarcely necessary to add that the Latin Februarius, the origin of our February, was derived from februa, an expiatory, or purifying sacrifice offered to the Manes, because in that month the Luperci, or priests of Pan, perambulated the city, carrying thongs of goat-kin, with which they scourged the women, and this was received for an expiation.”  George Soane, New Curiosities of Literature, p. 49.

And this year is a leap year, when February has 29 days instead of its usual 28.  Traditionally, women are allowed to propose to men in Leap Year, instead of waiting for their bashful swains to pluck up courage and pop the question, although whether the ladies hold the privilege for the entire year or only up to noon on 29 February is still in the court of opinion.

Astronomy for February: Full Snow Moon on the 7th.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

Weather for February
According to the 12 Days of Christmas:  Clear and sunny, high winds and chilly
According to the first 12 days of January: Clear skies, high winds
According to the Ember Days: Sunny and chilly
The weather on the last Sunday of the month indicates the weather of the next month: Sunny with high winds, and chilly.

[Looks like they’re all agreed]

Weather Lore for February:

[The proverbs against a fair February are legion, such as "It is better to see a pack of wolves than a fair February", with the warnings that if February has nice weather, expect bad crops, a dearth of food, animals dying, and people as well.]

There is always one fine week in February. [And it will tempt you to put away your winter woolies.  Don’t do it.  Resist temptation!]

February rain is as good as manure.

If it rains in February, it will be temperate all the year.
If it rains in February, all the year suffers.
Take your pick - glass half empty or half full...

Violent north winds in February herald a fertile year

Fogs in February mean frosts in May.

If it thunders in February, goose eggs will not hatch.

February thunder indicates a poor maple-sugar year.

If it thunders in February, there will be snow in May.

If it thunders on a certain day in February, there will be frost on that same day in May.

If it thunders on the last day of February, there will be frost on the last day of May.

The number of times it thunders in February, so often will it frost in May.

The days that are cold in February will be warm in March, and the days that are warm in February will be cold in March.

A snowy February means a fine Spring and Summer, while a fine and sunny February means just the opposite [a snowy Spring and Summer?]

February fill dyke, be it black or be it white, [rain or snow]
But if it be white, it’s the better to like.

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

There will be as many frosts in June as there are fogs in February.

When it is hottest in June, it will be coldest in the corresponding days of the next February.

As August, so next February [Well, there was that hurricane at the end of August.  Can we expect a nor’easter at the end of February?]

If bees get out in February, the next day will be windy and rainy.  [Bees are intelligent creatures.  They don't go out in February.  Humans, on the other hand...]

When gnats dance in February, the husbandman becomes a beggar.

If the last eighteen days of February and the first ten days of March be for the most part rainy, then the spring and summer quarters will probably be so also.

2/2 – If the ground hog sees his shadow on February 2nd, there will be six more weeks of cold weather.  It is between eleven and one o'clock that the groundhog's shadow is significant.

         When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day,
         There it will stick till the second of May.

         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.

         As far as the sun shines in on Candlemas Day
         So far will the snow blow in before the month of May.

         When on Purification the sun hath shined
         The greater part of winter comes behind.

         If Candlemas Day be fine and clear,
         Corn and fruits will then be dear.
         If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
         The half of winter was gone at Yule.

2/5 – St. Agatha is rich in snow.

2/6 – Saint Dorothea gives the most snow.

2/10 – Fine weather on St. Scholastica’s day foretells a fine spring.

2/12 – If the sun smiles on Saint Eulalie's Day, it is good for apples and cider, they say.

2/12, 13, 14 – If these three days are stormy, the rest of the year will be fine.

2/14 – St. Valentine’s day influences the following fifty days.

2/20 – If the wind blows on Shrove Tuesday night, it betokens a death amongst them that are learned and much fish shall die in the following summer. [Well, that’s not good]

2/21 – The night of Saint Peter shows what the weather will be for the next forty days.

           So much as the sun shines on Shrove Tuesday, the like will shine on every day in Lent.

           Thunder on Shrove Tuesday foretells wind, a great store of fruit, and plenty.

2/22 – If it is cold on Saint Peter's Day, it will last.

           If it freezes on February 22nd, there will be forty more freezes.

          Wherever the wind lies on Ash Wednesday, it continues during the whole of Lent.

2/25 – If it freezes on Saint Mathias' Day, it will freeze for a month together.

           Saint Matthias breaks the ice; if he finds none, he will make it.

          Saint Matthie
          Sends sap into the tree.

2/28 – Saint Romanus bright and clear, indicates a goodly year.

February.  Pruning Trees
Gardening for February

The 1817 Almanac advises: “In this Month remove Grafts of former Year’s Grafting.  Cut and lay Quicksets.  Vines may be planted the Beginning of this Month, and Fruit that grows in Bunches.  Set all sorts of Kernels and stone Seeds.

Sow on shady Borders the Seeds of Polyanthus.  Sow Beans, Pease, Corn Sallad, Marigold, Aniseed, Radishes, Parships, Carrots, Onions, Garlic, Beets, and Dutch Brown Lettuce.  Set Osiers, Willows, and other Aquatics.  Rub Moss off Trees after Rain.  Cut off Caterpillars from Quicks and Trees, and burn them.”

From Cassell’s Illustrated Almanack of 1871: “Flowers—Re-plant borders with box, etc., in mild weather, and prepare all vacant places in the garden for the sowing of annuals. This may be commenced towards the end of the month. By a sowing in February and another in March or April, you will be able to obtain a succession of flowers of the same kind in the summer and autumn. Carnations and other plants in frames should have free exposure to the air on every favorable opportunity.
Vegetables—The transplanting of autumn-sown cabbages should now be completed. Sow early radishes in sheltered spots. Beans and peas should not be sown too thickly. Cos-lettuces may be sown at the end of the month, and onions should be planted for seed.
Fruit—Fresh plantations of strawberries may now be made. Where the plants remain, turn over the ground between them, and let a little of the soil be shaken over the surface. Raspberry canes may be pruned, taking away the old growth, and leaving only the new canes that sprang up last year.”

2/2 – On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang a-drop (with icicles)
         Then you are sure of a good pea crop.

         At Candlemas Day,
         It is time to sow beans in the clay.

         The snowdrop in purest white array,
         First rears her head on Candlemas Day.

2/14 – On St. Valentine’s day begin to pay attention to the garden.

           On St. Valentine’s Day,
           Beans should be in the clay.

2/21 – On Shrove Tuesday, whosoever doth plant or sow, it shall remain always green.

Health for February:

“Be sparing of Physic, and let not Blood without absolute Necessity, and be careful of catching Cold.”

Artwork: February. Engraving by William Hone. The Everyday Book and Table Book. (1838) p. 194.

February. Limbourg frères. Tres Riches Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry. Fifteenth century.
[trying to stay warm is the theme this month.   Snow lies deep on the ground and covers the hayrick, the bee skeps, and the sheep-cote.  One peasant in his BVDs is obviously warmed by the exercise of chopping wood; two others are well-wrapped against the cold. The mistress of the house warms herself decorously before the blazing fire, while her companions have thrown modesty to the cold February winds and are warming as much of themselves as they can.]

February. Pruning Trees. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 424.