The Romans and the Celts regarded
February as the start of spring.
with January, was introduced onto the
Roman calendar by Numa Pompilous when
the calendar was extended from ten to
twelve. The word February comes from the
word 'februa' - which
means cleansing or purification, and
reflects the rituals undertaken before
Anglo Saxons called February
because cakes were offered to the gods
during that month. February was also
known to the Saxons as 'sprout-kale'
from the sprouting of cabbage or kale.
Having only 28 days
in non-leap years, February was known in
Welsh as 'y mis bach' -
the little month.
time about 400 years ago, the second
month of the year was called
'Feverell'. In Isaac Newton's
time one hundred years later it had
become 'Februeer'. The
modern name, February,
is only about a hundred years old.
(the Christian festival of lights )
2nd February is
Candlemas Day. This ancient festival
marks the midpoint of winter, halfway
between the shortest day and the spring
equinox. In olden times, many people
used to say that the
Christmas season lasted for forty
days - until the second day of February.
Robert Herrick in
his poem 'Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve'
DOWN with the rosemary and
Down with the misletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).
How did this
come to be called Candlemas?
It was the
day of the year when all the candles,
that were used in the church during the
coming year, were brought into church
and a blessing was said over them - so
it was the Festival Day
(or 'mass') of the Candles.
important in those days not only because
there was no electric lights. Some
people thought they gave protection
against plague and illness and famine.
For Christians, they were (and still
are) a reminder of something even more
important. Before Jesus came to earth,
it was as if everyone was 'in the dark'.
People often felt lost and lonely.
Afraid. As if they were on their own,
with no one to help them. Then came
Jesus with his message that he is with
his followers always ready to help and
comfort them. As if he is a guiding
light to them in the darkness.
Christians often talk of Jesus as 'the
light of the World' - and candles are
lit during church services to remind
Christians of this.
Candlemas traditions, superstitions and
12 - 14 February were traditionally
said to be 'borrowed' from January. If
these days were stormy, the year would
be favoured with good weather: but if
fine, the year's weather would be foul.
The last three days of March were said
to be borrowed from April.
It is said that if the weather is
fine and frosty at the close of January
and the beginning of February, there is
more winter ahead than behind.
When the cat lies in the sun
She will creep behind
the stove in March.
Of all the months of the year
Curse a fair February.
If it thunders in February,
it will frost in April.
If February give much snow,
A fine summer it doth foreshow.
The flower called
snowdrop appears in February and is a
symbol of hope. According to legend, the
snowdrop became the symbol of hope when
Adam and Eve were expelled from the
Garden of Eden. When Eve was about to
give up hope that the cold winters would
never end, an angel appeared. She
transformed some of the snowflakes into
snowdrop flowers, proving that the
winters do eventually give way to the
There is an old rhyme which
"The Snowdrop, in purest white array,
First rears her head on Candlemas day."
snowdrop does not mean 'drop' of
snow, it means drop as in eardrop -
the old word for earring.
also known as known as Candlemas
The Latin name
for the snow drop is Galanthus,
which means "milk flower".
One of the
strangest things ever to happen in
England took place during the night of
the 8th February 1855.
During the night,
heavy snowfall blanketed the countryside
and small villages of Southern Devon. In
their houses, people huddled beneath
their bedclothes on a night of intense
cold. Slowly the first light of dawn
came to reveal a bleak frozen landscape
- and the footprints.
To the astonishment
of all, when people left their houses
they found thousands of mystery
footsteps. These were in the shape of a
cloven hoof, but they moved in single
file. More astonishingly was the fact
that they covered a distance of one
hundred miles or more and went through
fields, gardens, towns, and even over
At first people
were intrigued, but then became very
frightened. The news swept quickly over
the country and many people believed the
footprints belonged to the devil. The
London newspapers published the story
and experts came to investigate the
footprints, before the snow melted.
offer any satisfactory solution to the
Shrove Tuesday marks forty days
Easter. The forty days are supposed
to be a time of quietness and fasting.
Shrove Tuesday (sometimes called
Mischief Day) was the last day before
Lent, so it was the last day for fun and
food for a long time.
A special game of
football is a played in February. It is
played differently from the game our
country is well known for. This game of
football has no rules and is played on
Shrove Tuesday. In some villages and
towns traffic would be stopped and all
the men would come out into the street
at a set time. The church bell would
ring and a football would be thrown into
the crowd and the biggest ever football
game was played. This game is still
played in some places in England.
Skipping is also a
traditional Shrove Tuesday game.
The last few days
Lent are known as
Shrovetide. A time of
feasting and revelry.
Monday was traditionally the
day to eat large pieces of fried meat.
Shrove Tuesday was the last
time luxury foods could be used. All
over Britain different Shrove Tuesday
meals were made - sometimes it was broth
(Scotland), or doughnuts
(Hertfordshire), frying pan pudding
(Lincolnshire) or pea soup (Cornwall) -
but the most usual meal and the meal we
still make today is pancakes.
Candlemas is a
traditional Christian festival that
commemorates the ritual purification of
Mary forty days after the birth of her
son Jesus. On this day, Christians
remember the presentation of Jesus
Christ in the Temple. Forty days after
the birth of a Jewish boy, it was the
custom to take him to the temple in
Jerusalem to be presented to God by his
times, this day was known as the 'Feast
of Lights' and celebrated the increase
strength of the life-giving sun as
winter gave way to spring.
This feast is called
Candlemas because that was the day on
which the year's supply of candles for
the church were blessed.
This was originally
thought to be the day on which birds
chose their mates. There are many
traditions and tales associated with
romance activities on Valentines day
- the first man
an unmarried woman saw on 14th
February would be her future
- if the names of
all a girl's suitors were written on
paper and wrapped in clay and the
clay put into water, the piece that
rose to the surface first would
contain the name of her
- if a woman saw
a robin flying overhead on
Valentine’s Day, it meant she would
marry a sailor. If she saw a
sparrow, she would marry a poor man
and be very happy. If she saw a
goldfinch, she would marry a rich
Each year in
Britain, we spend around £503m on cards,
flowers, chocolates and other gifts for
Valentine's Day. Traditionally these
were sent anonymously, but now-a-days we
often make it clear who is sending each
Shrove Tuesday marks
forty days before Easter.
Read more about Shrove Tuesday
Wednesday (the day after Shrove
tradition was to carry a piece of twig
from an ash tree in your pocket or down
your sock. Anyone who didn't have an ash
twig had his or her feet trodden on.
Find out more about Ash Wednesday
Friday (the Friday after Ash
Friday of Shrove
Week, English schoolboys were once
entitled to kiss girls without fear of
punishment or rejection, a custom that
lasted until at least the 1940s.
Leicestershire, Kissing Friday was
called Nippy Hug Day.
There men could demand a kiss from the
woman of their choice, but if their
petition was denied, they had the right
to 'louse', or pinch, the woman's
posterior - perhaps mimicking the
pinching of lice?
This is the day when
members of the Scout and Guide movements
remember their founders Lord and Lady
- (occurs once every
We have created a special page about
5th - Birth date of Robert Peel in
1788. Formed first police force in
London, hence nickname 'Bobbies'.
Queen Elizabeth ll came to the
throne on this day in 1952.
7th - Charles Dickens was born in
8th - A minor earthquake shook
Britain in 1750.
8th - A strange thing occurred in
11th - Sir Francis Drake became the
first known Englishman to sail the
pacific in 1578
11th - Thomas Edison born in 1847
The phonograph and the motion-picture
projector were only a few of Thomas
Edison's more than 1,000 inventions.
12th - Birth of Charles Darwin in
14th - St Valentines Day
15th- In 1971 Britain went decimal.
All the banks were shut on the 11th and
12th to prepare for the change over.
Three million ponds was spent converting
the country’s phone boxes to take the
new two pence pieces. Every cash
register in the country had to be
20th - On this day in 1896 the cinema
came to Britain when a programme of
films was shown for the first time to a
23rd - Birth of George Frederick
Handel in 1685
23rd - Birth of Samuel
Pepys in 1632