You will all be familiar with the popular quiz question designed to catch you out: How many months have 28 days? The answer, of course, is all of them. February is unique in that it is the only month to have only 28 days (unless it is a leap year, when it has the added bonus of an extra day – another reason February is unique).
Whenever I ask people: ‘What is your favourite month?’ very few – if any – respond February. Although it is short and that means pay day comes around quicker than normal, it is a tough month. Even though the number of daylight hours is gradually getting longer, it still seems a hard slog to get from the end of January through to the start of March. This year will be no different – just harder. As lockdown continues, one suspects, throughout the month, the hope of spring and new life and a new normal may seem closer yet, also, even more elusive. As the saying goes: “So close, yet so far.”
Our struggles through this short month are far from new. The Roman month ‘Februarius’ was named after the Latin term februum, which means “purification”, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period. It is, perhaps, a good thing that the Roman world knew nothing of the southern hemisphere as that would have thrown their whole understanding of a calendar upside down!
The ancient world’s sense that the last period of a long winter should be set aside as a time of purification has strong echoes in the Christian season of Lent which, this year, begins on Ash Wednesday (17 February). It is a time for reflection, taking stock of our finite resources and valuing those things that are truly precious to us. Ironically, it has echoes too in some of the government slogans we have all got used to in the last year: ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’. We have become all too familiar with new rites of purification: ‘hands, face, space.’
Do not despair. Spring will come. New life will blossom. Daylight and warmth are close at hand. Lockdown will end. The roll out of vaccines will enable us to enjoy a new normal, even if it is different to the ‘old normal’. We hope and pray and urge our leaders to ensure that the vaccines are not just available for those countries that can afford to buy them and have an infrastructure to distribute them. The ‘new normal’ has to be available for all, not just the few. In the meantime, we sustain ourselves the best we can through this short, but tough, month. We focus on self-care and ensuring the safety and care of others. We keep in touch. We pray and worship. We remain united. And, together, we long for spring.
With love and prayers, Russell
Posted – 3 February 2021