I know, February is a month, not a holiday, but it is a very special month for us. It begins with Imbolc which we observe because we are social, not because it fits into our tradition in any way. But we do adapt it and when we are not being social, we celebrate February Eve.
Our tradition is home grown and we strongly believe that all of our holidays should reflect the natural cycles of our lives as well as our values and cosmology. You can read the article about Imbolc for an explanation of why the more common understanding of Imbolc doesn't fit in and what we do instead. As our Gods are the Gods of Ancient Greece, it would be nice to celebrate as the Ancient Greeks did at this time, but considering our climate, and theirs, it would also not be appropriate. I spent two weeks in February in Greece. It featured the fragrance of ripe oranges. Here in the Midwest, USA, it February features ice, slush, general freezing misery. I would love to celebrate the traditional Dionysian festivals the ancients did this time of year, but it wouldn't be at all appropriate. There are no flowers to put in our hair.
When we look to our own ancestry we find these rhyming words of wisdom: Half your food and half your hay, If it's gone by Candlemas Day, You might not see the month of May. February in the Midwestern USA is starvation time, NOT a time of plenty. The hens aren't laying and the goats aren't milking, and though some of the critters might be pregnant nobody's ready for butcher and there is nothing to harvest. Nothing. Any roots or crucifers you left in the garden have long been picked over. Grazing the livestock isn't really an option either, so let's hope you have plenty of hay and other feed on hand. Granted, in modern times we can just run to the feed or grocery store (if you want to brave the roads) but our ancestors didn't have that option. February was a turning point. The winter festivities were over. Now it's just the long drag till spring. It's going to be frigid for at least two more months and we can't risk planting anything for nearly four. Our last frost date is near the end of May.
For us, February is also a turning point and so we have decided to make it our magical New Year. We begin with February Eve. This is when we declare our intention to cleanse our home and lives of everything we don't want to take with us into the coming year and burn symbols of them on our fire. The rest of the month is spent making plans and taking steps to shed these things. A sort of New Year's Resolution thing. We declare our Lunar New Year to be the New Moon nearest to the first of February and celebrate accordingly. (In more authentic Hellenic tradition, this would be the first New Moon after the Summer Solstice.)
We also fast during the month of February. It's not a typical fast involving not eating specific things. We can eat whatever we have stored, but nothing else, unless it is offered to us by someone else. We can buy nothing in February (except gas for the car). If we run out of something, we have to do without. We do this in honor of our ancestors who spent the entire winter subsisting on what they stored up. It is great prepping practice too.
At the end of February, sometime in March, the first crocus will appear. This triggers us to celebrate the Rite of Awakening. Nothing edible is going to grow anytime soon, but the very first sign of spring is certainly worth celebrating and if we can hurry it up, we will.
Comments, questions, criticism?