February is a tough month. We're in the final stretch of winter, and spring seems like a long way off. Maybe that's why they made it the shortest month. But that wasn't enough! To cheer everyone up, they've crammed as many holidays into that short period of time as humanly possible.
1. Groundhog Day, February 2
You gotta love a holiday centered around weather. You might think it's about the animal, but no, any animal would have done just as well. The real reason Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2nd is that it is close to the midpoint of winter, halfway between the solstice and the equinox. Whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not, we still officially have six more weeks of winter. But hope springs eternal.
2. Superbowl Sunday, February 3
The manliest celebration of the year is on Superbowl Sunday. Professional football teams have been whittled down to the best of the AFC and the NFC. This year, it's the New York Giants vs. the New England Patriots. A tradition since 1967, Superbowl Sunday was a January holiday til 2004, when season creep pushed it into February. To celebrate properly, you should buy a big screen TV, stock up on beer and meal-sized snacks, and invite your friends over to watch the game. Remember to analyze all the expensive TV ads as well as the game. Here are more tips on hosting a Superbowl party.
3. Mardi Gras, February 5
Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday". The date is also called Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day. It's the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter. The purpose of Fat Tuesday is to use up all the temptations before the fast, whether alcohol, sugar, fatty foods, or wild carousing. The idea has expanded to an entire season of Carnival, since there's a lot of temptations out there.
4. Chinese New Year, February 7
Chinese New Year is the beginning of the Spring Festival which runs 15 days and ends with the Lantern Festival. The date varies from year to year and depends on the lunar calendar. In Chinese astrology, each year is named after an animal in the zodiac, making a 12-year cycle. This February 7th is the beginning of The Year of the Rat. The New Year is a time of fresh beginnings, parades and fireworks, and symbols of good luck.
5. Valentines Day, February 14
Originally the feast day of St. Valentine, this holiday may have been set at February 14th to replace Lupercalia, a Roman festival where lots were drawn to pair up men and women. Valentines Day has become the day when a woman's status at her workplace is set for the entire year according to the size of the delivery she receives from the florist. Or doesn't. But at least there are plenty of sweets.
6. President's Day, February 18
Until 1968, we celebrated Lincoln's birthday on the 12th and Washington's birthday on the 22nd. The problem was that having two such holidays in the same month made employers leary of giving anyone either day off. As you need a day off to contemplate the awesomeness of our forefathers (and get to the white sale), Washington's birthday was moved to the third Monday in February. Lincoln's birthday remained on the 12th, but in popular use is combined with Washington's birthday to become Presidents Day and the newest three-day weekend. The effects were immediate: everyone forgot about Lincoln and Washington and made plans to get out of town.
7. Leap Day, February 29
It's the date that only comes round once every four years, like the Olympics or the US presidential election. There are some exceptions, as you can see in the above flow chart. That in itself is reason enough for a holiday, isn't it? February 29th is the day that those who are celebrating birthdays get to make jokes about how they got their driver's liscence right after their fourth birthday, or are looking forward to retirement after their sweet 16th. Some communities celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day on February 29th. Although Al Capp, who invented the Sadie Hawkins tradition in his comic strip Li'l Abner placed it in the fall, there are those who think the opportunity for women to chase her own beau should be restricted to once every four years.
If that isn't enough for you, here's a longer list of special days in February. We do whatever we can to get through until spring.