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February, that quirky and unusual month

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February, the month that just ended, is a strange sort of month in that is has provided us with more questions, confusion and quirkiness than all the other months combined.

To begin with, let’s discuss its proper pronunciation.

Honestly, has anyone ever heard February pronounced the way it’s spelled?

While it’s spelled like Feb-roo-rerry, it is too much trouble to pronounce it that way, so it is always pronounced as Feb-you-wary, just like Jan-you-wary one month earlier.

“February is the second and shortest month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendar with 28 days in common years and 29 days in leap years,” the Wikipedia entry states, which means every four years.

We won’t even get the intricacies of Leap Year and trying to explain what it means other than saying Leap Day, Feb. 29, occurs once every four years instead of every year.

Also, said Wikipedia, the month was named February sometime before the 12th century after the Latin word februum, which meant purification. I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that.

As I see it, Leap Day serves no purpose other giving than those who have a birthday on that date the opportunity to joke with others that they are actually 7 years old on the date of their 28th birthday.

Furthermore, what’s so important about Leap Year, and what would happen if one year we decided not to observe it? Would clocks run backward or rivers flow upstream?

February is probably far down the list of favorite months for most people.

You seldom hear a bride-to-be announcing she wants to get married in February because it would be much colder then and everything would look either dead or drab.

February appeared in the nursery rhyme many of us learned in grammar school designed to help teach us the days of the month.

The one I recall went “thirty days hath September, April, June and November...” although I never knew the rest of it except the part my mother taught me that concluded “all the rest have 31, save February, to which we 28 assign, ‘til leap year gives it 29.”

February contains several unofficial holidays. Most of us are familiar with Groundhog Day that falls on Feb. 2. with spring supposed to arrive early if the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow.

The Super Bowl is played each year in February and the way the event is hyped and celebrated, one almost gets the impression it’s a national holiday.

According to the Old Farmers Almanac, the day now known as President’s Day, Feb. 18, was previously observed separately as Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays, but they gradually got watered down and thrown into the heap with all the other presidents, so now they all have to share only one day among everyone.

Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.

Valentine’s Day occurs on Feb. 14 and until someone proves otherwise, I’m convinced this day was contrived by the marketing folks solely as an excuse for people to spend money on gifts and goodies between Christmas and Easter.

I’m not sure why, but somehow I recall from a high school history class that Valentine’s Day was named after a fellow who lived during Roman times and had his head chopped off.

That to me doesn’t sound like a reason for celebrating, unless perhaps the guy was a real jerk and had it coming.

So long, February. We’ll see you again next year.

Keith Barnes is a reporter for the Johnstonian News in Johnston County. Email him at