February Flinch Response
If February has served no other purpose in my life, it has provided me with ample opportunities to do interesting things that I can later feel kinda foolish for having done. Valentine’s Day has been a yearly adventure into guilt, obligation, disappointment, and resentment; an ill-fated wedding on the groom’s birthday certainly reinforced my February Flinch Response; and an unexpected romance that led ultimately to emotional exile all have provided writing inspiration and inspired their share tears and amused embarrassment.
February is, of course, the second month in the Gregorian calendar’s 12-month year. During regular years it has 28 days but during leap years – like 2004 – there are 29 days… cuz you just can’t get enough February. To further complicate matters, once during the 18th century and twice during the 20th century the minimalist month managed to snag yet another day. Considering January and February were the last months added to the calendar — because the Romans didn’t even consider winter to have months — you’d think that February would be glad to have any days at all. Talk about a greedy, high maintenance, and unappreciative month. But then, what do you expect from something named after the Etruscan god of the dead and purification?
As any poet will tell you, love is suffering. As any religious figure will tell you, suffering purifies. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in February. Or maybe my quirky cynicism is showing. After all, there are other holidays during the month and none of them specifically focus on love or suffering – although a creative mind can fix that.
There are the birthdays of presidents Lincoln and Washington on the 19th and 29th – neither of which are very sexy or romantic holidays. But just think how hot a kinky “Freeing the Slaves” or “Truth or Dare” scene could be. And there’s Groundhog Day on the 2nd – a holiday that has not only inspired a great movie but has an unexpected and largely forgotten history far more glamorous and potentially sexy than a bunch of folks standing around in winter coats waiting for a big rodent to pop its head out the ground. In fact, it’s a cool enough history that I may ditch that dreaded day on February 14th in favor of the more “traditional” Imbolc and Candlemas.
Imbolc was a pagan solar holiday celebrated in the northern hemisphere. The name of the holiday, which translates as “in the belly,” makes clear what those shivering pagans were thinking about, and it wasn’t long solitary walks in the drifting snow. Imbolc is also the Celtic term for spring and was sacred to Brigid, the goddess of smithcraft. In time the Christians adopted the holiday but celebrated it on the 2nd as Candlemas and celebrated the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. Again with the purification. Everything old is new again. As is common during winter holidays, people lit candles or lamps and placed them in every windows or room. Frankly, when I think about this, images of purifying rites, metal bracelets and collars, hot wax, and a firelight love nest flash through my mind – and suddenly February doesn’t seem to suck quite as much.
Let’s hear it for the Good Ole Days — and new traditions.
– Originally published in Playtime Magazine –