February got shafted, and I don’t think that’s very nice, no, not very nice at all.
But let’s go back to the holiday-fest that precedes it:
November is a time for thanks, where we evaluate all the good things we have in our lives and show our appreciation for them over a nice feast of turkey and marshmallow sweet potatoes.
The gratitude we feel on Thanksgiving, and the preparation for it, start not just on the actual day of, but also in the weeks leading up to it. In school, children are taught about pilgrims and the Mayflower, preschoolers dress up in Indian garb and feathered construction paper hats, adults create menus and assign who’s in charge of what food item, young parents are faced with the headache of choosing which family’s meal they’re going to attend, and so forth. But after all of that, after we’re stuffed with so much stuffing that we can be stuffed no more, the holiday has passed and to show for it we are left with protruding stomachs and divvied up leftovers.
Then we have December, when winter tunes start playing on the radio (some even before Thanksgiving), warming our hearts until they’re played so much on every station that eventually they annoy us. These songs culminate in the top 100 of the year as we approach the Big Day. We also have the holiday lights, which, regardless of your religion, arguably are a welcoming respite from the darkness of early winter. And of course, the candles of our Chanukah menorahs burning bright, an additional candle as the holiday progresses. We also masy encounter our first snowfall before the New Year, one that is met with wonder (as “Winter Wonderland” loops in our heads) until when, a couple of months later, it does not.
After the big ball drops and confetti and litter are cleaned up from Times Square, there’s a bit of post-holiday blues, as all the hype from the previous two months are met with the rest of a looming winter. But fear not, as there is “Yeshiva Break” to look forward to, thanks to it being switched in most schools from late December. Alas, January is saved from gloom.
But then comes February.
Let’s face it, as mentioned earlier, February really got left in the shadows. Sure, we have the poor-excuse-for-a-holiday called Groundhog’s Day. But come on – the shadow of a furry little animal is going to determine how long a set season is going to operate, when it’s the same result, regardless of that shadow, every single year?
I mean, even March, though it still is cold and dreary, carries with it the idiom “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” And with that in mind we hope for our Purim packages to be delivered on warm front doorsteps rather than in the snow.
And then “April showers bring May flowers.” Spring fever, from April through June, is marked by Passover and Shavuot. First, the story of the Exodus, from slavery to freedom, the ultimate transition from darkness to light, celebrated with matzah and maror and potato kugel and children asking questions and the Haggadah and wine and children hiding the afikomon (sometimes falling asleep before we have time to ask where it’s hidden). Shavout is a time to appreciate the Torah by learning all through the night and eating cheesecake.
This, followed by July and August – summer vacation! – which consist of camp, trips, and sun tans.
September is marked by the High Holidays, when, in between our new fruits and apples and honey, we pray to cleanse our souls. Then we look forward to the festivities of Sukkot, often in October, where we eat in our bamboo and canvas huts and hope the rain doesn’t make them unusable for more time than they are usable.
And then, after all of this, we arrive back at November. And December. And January. Which, as noted, all consist of their own distinct attributes.
And then there’s February, the saddest month on the calendar, with no turkeys or cranberry sauce, no bright lights, no holiday music, no dreidels or latkes, no promise of warmer climates, no small and modest mountains, no dressing up as princesses and pirates, no hamentashen (most of the time), no flowers, no learning through the night, no grand escapes from slavery, no bright sunshine, no trips to the beach, no apples and honey, no purity of fasting, no shaking palm leaves or the sweet smell of citrus fruit, no dancing with the Torah, and all the way back to where we started, which was a month of gratitude culminating in nice warm pumpkin pie, followed by a season of light amidst darkness.
No, February gets none of this treatment. February gets a pointless tradition of a small little animal not determining the coming of a season that’s already set by the calendar. As I said, February got shafted, and big time. The saddest month of the year.
Well, at least it’s also the shortest.