Dr. Hurlbutt's Highly Peculiar Online Calendar

February 2011

(National Caffeine Addiction Awareness Month)

February 2: Groundhog Day. Occurring midway between the first day of winter and the first day of spring, Groundhog Day coincides with the Christian feast of Candlemas. According to tradition, the weather on Candlemas had predictive value for the rest of the season:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

In rural America, this folk belief became associated with the groundhog, or woodchuck, which supposedly emerged from hibernation on this occasion to evaluate its prospects. If the weather was sufficiently fair for the animal to see its shadow, it would return to its burrow to sleep. If not, it would remain above ground.

Drawing of groundhog singing, 'Me and my sha-dow.'

February 3: This is the first day of the Chinese New Year, which the Chinese system of astrology designates the Year of the Metal Rabbit. The Year of the Rabbit is the fourth in a twelve-year cycle of astrological animal signs (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, boar), a cycle that intersects with a sequence of five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) to create a larger sixty-year cycle, now starting its twenty-eighth year.

February 5: In 1897, the Indiana General Assembly voted to discard the conventional mathematical value of pi as "wholly wanting and misleading" and to adopt instead the incoherent calculations offered by a crank mathematician "as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same." The Indiana Senate, however, wisely declined to follow the Assembly's lead and postponed consideration of the bill indefinitely on February 12.

February 6: Feastday of St. Amand. A missionary during the Merovingian era, St. Amand spent so much time evangelizing in wine-producing regions that he was adopted as the patron saint of wine merchants and the wine trade.

Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved.  Ergo, drink wine and be saved. Medieval German saying.   A cask of wine works more miracles than a church full of saints. - Italian proverb.

February 8: In 1692 a doctor declared Abigail Williams and Betty Parris of Salem, Massachusetts, to be "under an evil hand," precipitating a flurry of accusations leading to the Salem Witch Trials.

February 12: Lincoln's Birthday (Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York). President Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 (the same month, day, and year, incidentally, as Charles Darwin). Although additional states previously designated the day a holiday, some chose to amalgamate it with the federal observance of Washington's Birthday, after the Monday Holidays Act of 1968 moved the latter to the third Monday of the month.

February 14: St. Valentine's Day. A third-century Roman martyr, St. Valentine is the patron saint of love and happy marriages, and people have been using his feastday to send missives to the objects of their affection since a very early date.

Happy Valentine's Day (assuming you go in for that sort of thing)!   Have a Happy Valentine's Day mercifully free of swine fever!

February 15: The last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan in 1989, ending a disastrous nine-year occupation.

February 17: The CSS H. L. Hunley became the first submarine to sink an opposing vessel, when it torpedoed the USS Housatonic outside Charleston Harbor in 1864.

February 21: Washington's Birthday (U.S., observed). George Washington was actually born on February 22, 1732 (February 11, 1731, Old Style). Congress officially declared the anniversary of his birth a federal holiday in 1885. As a result of the Monday Holidays Act of 1968, however, Washington's Birthday is now observed on the third Monday of the month. In many states the holiday is celebrated as "Presidents' Day."

February 22: Eugene Vidal, U.S. Director of Air Commerce, issued an order in 1935 prohibiting aircraft from flying over the White House and the surrounding area, for reasons both of security and noise pollution.

February 23: "The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad." James Madison, 1799.

February 24: The Drury Lane Theatre in London burned down in 1809. Being found outside calmly drinking a glass of wine, the owner, playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, observed: "A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside."

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July | August | September | October | November | December

While Archelaus reasonably believes the contents of this calendar to be accurate, it disclaims
all liability for the consequences of any action undertaken in reliance upon said contents.