01 February 2013


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.

Astronomy for February: Full Snow Moon on the 25th.


February is dedicated to the Holy Family.

Liturgical Celebrations
Purification (Candlemas) or Presentation of Our Lord on 2 February
Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent on 12 February.

Ember Days – 20, 22, 23 February

Novenas for February

Purification                        continues from 24 January
Saint Blaise                        continues from 25 January
Our Lady of Lourdes         begins 2 February
Lenten Novena                  begins 3 February
Saint Walburga                  begins 16 February

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

Weather for February:
According to the 12 Days of Christmas:  Mostly cloudy and chilly.
According to the first 12 days of January: Bright sunshine, cool.
According to the Ember Days: Rains and high winds
The weather on the last Sunday of the month indicates the weather of the next month: Brrrrr… Sunny with cold winds.

[Half and half here.  Which one will prevail?]

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!]
Stay warm!
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.

If the north wind does not blow in February, it will surely come in March. [We don’t need ol’ Boreas rampaging around us in March.  We need Zephyrus and warm but unlucky Eurus, and even Notus, if he does not leave a path of destruction as he did this week.]

Fogs in February mean frosts in May.

For every fog in February, there will be a frost in June.

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.

For every thunder in February, there will be a cold spell 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.
[None of which we want.]

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.

If the month of February is unusually cold, expect a hot summer.
Which finds its counterpart in:
When it is hottest in June, it will be coldest in the corresponding days of the next February.

As August, so next 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. [Another of the “If you have a choice between a warm February and Hell, choose Hell” sayings.]

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.

If Candlemas is fair and clear
There’ll be two winters in the year.

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.

If Candlemas is dark, look for a wet summer. 
If Candlemas is bright and clear, look for a bright summer.
[So maybe it isn’t so bad if the groundhog sees his shadow.  Spring might be long a-comin’, but summer will be dry.]

If the goose finds it wet on Candlemas, the sheep will have grass on Lady Day (March 24)

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

2/5 – St. Agatha is rich in snow.

Rainy clouds today foretell hailstorms in the summer.

2/6 – Saint Dorothea gives the most snow.

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

2/11 – 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]

2/11, 12, 13 – If the three days of the 11th, 12th, and 13th are stormy, there will be good weather for the rest of the month; but if they are fair, there will be no more good weather that spring.

2/11 to 3/10– 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.

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

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.

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

2/13 – Wherever the wind lies on Ash Wednesday, it continues during the whole of Lent.

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

2/20 – Ember Day.  The weather for today indicates the weather of April.

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

2/22 – Ember Day – The weather for today indicates the weather of May.

If it is cold on Saint Peter's Day, cold weather will last for a while longer.

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

2/23 – Ember Day.  The weather for today indicates the weather of June.

2/24 – 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.

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

February.  Pruning Trees.

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

While the Crocus hastens to the shrine
Of Primrose love on St. Valentine.

Gardening for February

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.

If the sun shines on Candlemas, the flax will prosper [Not quite so important to us in this day of unnatural fibers, but at one time a good flax crop determined if you would have new clothes, sheets, and towels this year, or would have to make do with last year’s old, worn, and probably stained linen.]

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

2/3 – On St. Blaise’s day, the ground becomes fit to cultivate.

2/5 – Sow onions on Saint Agatha’s day

If water courses in the streams on St. Agatha’s day
There will be much milk in the chowder pot. [and I love chowder!  Come on, water!]

2/12 – On Shrove Tuesday, whosoever doth plant or sow, it shall remain always green.

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.

While the Crocus hastens to the shrine
Of Primrose love on St. Valentine.

2/24 – Saint Matthie
Sends sap into the tree.

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.

Health for February:

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

February. Engraving by Samuel Williams. William Hone, The Everyday Book and Table Book. (1838) p. 194. [you may have noticed that with the exception of January, the figures representing the months are accompanied in some way by their zodiacal signs - in this case, the river-going wagon is drawn by the two fish of Pisces.]

“The Holy Family at Work”, The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, (c1440)

February. Limbourg frères. Belles Heures of Jean, Duc de Berry. (15th century)

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