Candlemas . . . . . .

snowdrop1“”The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead.

Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red.”
–  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Afternoon in February

Ever wonder why February only has 28 days, while all the other months have 30 or 31.  It is all down to the Romans, specifically a Roman king named Numa Pompilius. Back in the 8th century BC the Roman calender , only had 10 months. The calendar also ended with December (as in the “tenth” month).  To keep the Roman calendar in sync with the lunar one, Numa added two new months, January and February, to the end of the year, making February shorter to fit into the cycle.   Years later, Julius Caesar reorganized the calendar again, giving it 365 days.  Eventually we ended up with 28 days in February plus a “leap year” when it has 29.

The weather has been exceptionally changeable this week.  Warm one day, frosty the next or very wet.  After a hard frost over night I woke  this morning to a stunning, bright red sky and then this afternoon the fog rolled in followed by endless heavy rain and it is still raining now.  The poor old sheep are very hungry and are getting through masses of hay.  Miserable February weather; enough to make anyone comfort eat!!

The word February is believed to have derived from the name ‘Februa’ taken from the Roman ‘Festival of Purification’.  The root ‘februo’ meaning to ‘I purify by sacrifice.     There seem to be a masses of of traditions relating to this month, its festivals and weather.

Candlemas,is  a major Christian festival  which is celebrated  annually on February 2. It marks  three occasions according to Christian belief: the presentation of the child Jesus; Jesus’ first entry into the temple; and it celebrates the Virgin Mary’s purification (mainly in Catholic churches).  Plus the English name, ‘Candlemas, refers to the custom of blessing and distributing candles and carrying them in procession before the mass. The light of the candles is symbolic of Christ as the light of the world, to stick to tradition all the candles should be made of beeswax. In pre Christian Britian it is believed the Celtic Sabbat of Imbolc  festival marked the mid-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The term “Imbolc” translates as either “in milk” or “in the belly,” and marked the birth and nursing of the spring lambs as a sign of the passing of winter.

There are a great many “weather traditions” associated with ‘re month of February; the most common I have heard is:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright Winter will have another fight.

If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, Winter will not come again.

February flower

We will see what transpires, if it holds true, last Thursday was very wild and wet.  . . . . . .!  The farmers could do with a good start to the lambing season, which will be getting into full swing here at the end of the month.  At the moment all the youngsters ( Young Farmers Clubs are very well supported round about) are in the throws of the “plays”.  Each club puts on several type and length  of performance in the local theatre in a week long competition which starts this week.    The winning performances go forward to a national final later in the year .. . . .   It all takes up a huge amount of the young people’s time, but most of them will be getting home straight into lambing duties the following week….. probably their busiest month of the year.

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