When our calendar flips over to February, our thoughts automatically turn to Valentine’s Day, partly because stores start displaying heart-shaped boxes of candy and colorful Valentine cards right after Christmas decorations vacate the shelves.
Granted, it is the biggest and most “loved” day of February, but there are other important dates to be recognized in February, including Groundhog Day, Boy Scouts Day, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Susan B. Anthony’s birthday, George Washington’s birthday, President’s Day and Ember Days.
Ember Days occur four times a year at the start of each season, referred to in Latin as “the quattuor anni tempora” (the four seasons of the year.) Traditionally observed by some Christian denominations, the days are four separate sets of 3 days within the same week, specifically, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday that are set aside for fasting, abstinence and prayer with the purpose being to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation and to assist the needy. These four quarterly periods in which Ember Days fall are called “Embertides.”
Ember Days this month are Feb. 21, 23 and 24.
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The Ember Weeks during the year are between the 3rd and 4th Sundays of Advent (Christmas); between the 1st and 2nd Sunday of Lent (Easter);between Pentecost (May 20) and Trinity Sunday (May 27); , and the Liturgical — the 3rd week of September with autumn beginning Sept. 22.
Folklore has it that the weather on each of these three days foretells the weather for the next three months. This is grounded in some common sense since the beginning of the four seasons cue the changes in weather as well as a shift in how we keep harmony with the Earth.
The holiday that many states celebrate now as President’s Day has its origins in commemorations of George Washington’s birthday. The celebration began in 1800, a year after he died. In 1971, the government moved this yearly remembrance to the 3rd Monday in February as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
The act established the observance of certain holidays on Mondays, was signed into law on June 28, 1968, and took effect on January 1, 1971. Four holidays — Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day — were moved from fixed dates to designated Mondays. The act was designed to increase the number of three-day weekends for federal employees, a favorite goal of the travel industry.
As of 1998, since Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays were so close together, both men were recognized on President’s Day. Four presidents were born in February: Ronald Reagan (Feb. 6); William Henry Harrison (Feb. 9); Lincoln (Feb. 12) and Washington (Feb. 22) .
Reagan, at 69, and Harrison, at 68, were among the oldest presidents when elected. President, Donald Trump ‘trumps’ them. He was 70 years and 220 days old when elected.
Here are some quotes from our February presidents:
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Reagan, our 40th president.
“All the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.” Harrison, our 9th. He was born before the American Revolution and died of pneumonia 31 days into his term, serving the shortest tenure among U.S. presidents.
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln, who was our 16th president.
“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Washington
Contributor Jean Tanner is a lifetime rural resident of the Bluffton area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.