Nicker has been away for a while. (Sea dragons do that sometimes.) He came back for the big birthday celebration, though. Also coming are the close friends. (Of course YOU are invited.) As you well know, Nicker and Danny have the same birthday. That’s on February 12. A few years ago Gordie was feeling sad because he didn’t know his own birthday. No one did. Danny and Nicker had a solution, though. Their birthday would be Gordie’s birthday. (You can read Gordie’s Birthday.)
Well … the three will be there, Danny, Nicker and Gordie. Captain Kazoo will also come. I’ve heard a rumor that a good family friend, Santa, might be coming. (He remembers well when Nicker helped him, and when he held Glicker on his lap.) Wouldn’t it be fun to have Captain Kazoo and Santa come to YOUR birthday?
To find out how things go for the party, come on over to Story Hour. Then come back here for some calendar fun. Remember to print off at least one for yourself, and a few for friends so they can also have some fun, too.
Right away, it’s tough to spell. What is that strange “r” doing in there?
What a lot of people don’t know is that there was no such thing as February until about 100 years ago. Oh, the month was there – it just wasn’t called February. Maybe teachers got involved to change the spelling so students would SAY “Febuary” but have to SPELL “February” – with that strange “r” at the beginning. (We sure don’t have “Janruary.”)
Let me tell you how this came about – then we can get to the calendar fun. Take a seat on the couch next to Nicker and Danny.
February is the shortest month. The Welsh called it y mis bach, which means “little month.” Saxons called it sol-monath, which means “cake month.” This was because cakes were offered to the gods of the coming harvest. Grain stored so carefully since the last harvest was treasured. What better way to please the harvest gods than to give it to them so there would be even more grain this year?
Surely you have heard of William Shakespeare. That was about 400 years ago. At that time February was called Feverell. A common tale is how Isaac Newton discovered gravity 100 years later when an apple bonked him on the head. At that time, it was called Februeer. That’s pretty much what you’d see on a calendar before World War 1 (around 1914). That’s when the name FEBRUARY was finally used and accepted. People have been saying it and spelling it wrong ever since.
Feb-RU-air-ee. There’s that pesty “r” but try to say Februeer, or y mis bach.
You have to learn the days of the week, then months of the year. January has 31 days. February has 28, but sometimes 29. That’s to make the calendar work right again. Otherwise the calendar would be off by a day every few years. The extra day is shoved into February. It doesn’t have enough days anyway, so each few years it gets the treat of an extra day so all the other months can go on as always.
You might think that making a calendar is easy. Try it! Where would you start?
The calendars we use are kinda silly. Why does the year start on January 1st? The truthful answer is, “A bunch of guys who thought they were SO smart couldn’t figure it out and they picked that day so they could stop arguing and go have lunch.”
Here’s the thing. Our calendars are invented on how the moon moves around the Earth, and on how the Earth moves around the sun. The two are quite different, and neither is quite accurate – at least not in human terms. For example, we like to say that a year is 365 days. No, it’s not – and you’re already in trouble because … “what is a day?” A day on Earth isn’t the same as a day on Mars or anywhere else.
Well, that’s easy. A day is how long it takes the Earth to spin once. Right? It’s one period of sun, one period of dark. That’s a day, right? Nope! And it’s not 24 hours on a clock, even if you try to pretend it is. Haven’t you noticed that days are longer in the summer and shorter in the winter? That’s because the Earth is tilted and it doesn’t go around the sun in a nice, neat circle. The shape we travel is more like an egg than a circle.
This got so frustrating that some tried to use the moon. It’s closer, easier to watch and a bit more reliable (but not much). These smart guys tried to come up with a calendar based on how the moon goes around the Earth. It didn’t work very well mostly because … shhh, a moment and imagine this … because the moon sorta kinda goes around the Earth in about 30 days, which it doesn’t … and the Earth goes around the sun in about 365 day, which it doesn’t.
The most important reason for a good calendar was to figure when to plant, and when to harvest. That has to do mostly with where Earth is around the sun, only a little with where the moon is around the Earth.
Worse, all those things keep changing – and they change even depending on where you live.
Right now, there is no day or night in the Arctic (where Santa lives). It’s only night. Right now there is no night in the Antarctic (where penguins live). It’s only day. In New York you might be fighting blizzards – but in Australia it’s swimming season.
For someone in Minnesota, FebRUary is time to get ready for spring then swimming, but in Sydney, FebRUary is time to be thinking about the end of swimming. In Minnesota the days are getting longer, but in Sydney they are getting shorter.
Did you print out the calendar? And make copies for family and friends and neighbors and …?
February is Grapefruit Month. Ocean Spray , best known for cranberries, also does things with other juices, including grapefruit. It’s a fruit. Actually, it is a citrus fruit, like oranges, limes and lemons, but with its own unique taste. Arizona, where Danny and Nicker live, is famous for oranges and grapefruit. This is also Canned Food Month. You probably don’t think about canned foods. This has an interesting history. The French emperor Napoleon wanted to conquer the world. For that you need a large army. That means you need lots of food. When Napoleon was around, canned food wasn’t around. His armies would get far from home and … they’d get hungry. So, Napoleon offered a prize for someone to come up with a way to preserve food that could be carried along. Voila (that’s French for “there ya go”), canned food was invented.
Since this is also Library Lovers Month, you can go to the library to learn more about grapefruit, Napoleon, canned foods, and … well, let’s look at all the special days to find other things you can learn about as you love your library.
FEBRUARY 2 – GROUNDHOG DAY
As the story goes, if a groundhog comes out of the burrow on this day and sees his shadow, it frightens him and he goes back underground. That is supposed to mean there will be six more weeks of winter. Brrrr. Although this day is celebrated in many places, the largest is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with Punxsutawney Phil as the “guest of honor.”
You can see the celebration, and Phil, from last year.
Here is another fun video about groundhogs (and other critters).
FEBRUARY 5 – NATIONAL WEATHERMAN’S DAY
“Today the high will be 43 with a low tonight of 27. Expect scattered snow tomorrow.” Who tells us this? It’s the weatherman (or weatherlady). This might be a new word for you. Meteorologist. It has nothing to do with meteors, though, this is someone who studies the weather.
FEBRUARY 7 – WAVE ALL YOUR FINGERS AT YOUR NEIGHBOR
Our friends at wellcat.com do some wonderful things, and are worth a visit. Among other things they come up with some wonderful holidays. For this holiday, the idea is to show your neighbors that you care. Wave all your fingers with a big smile.
FEBRUARY 8 – KITE FLYING
For those in the north, winter isn’t over yet – and for those in the south, it’s coming. In many places, March is the most windy month, and a bit warmer. Even so, THIS is Kite Flying Day. In Minnesota, you might need a parka, but who knows. Maybe you can launch the kite while sledding down a hill of snow.
FEBRUARY 10 – UMBRELLA
Way way back if it began to rain, you had a few choice. One was to go hide. Another was to get wet. Then came the invention of the umbrella. At least people had the choice to hide wherever they happened to be. If it’s a windy storm, however, you might find that your umbrella is helping you to celebrate Kite Flying Day two days late.
FEBRUARY 11 – MAKE A FRIEND
One of the closing lines of the famous movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is “A toast to my big brother, George – the richest man in town.” The movie is about a man who runs a sort of bank and it comes up short of money right when the bank examiner comes. He thinks he is going to lose everything and go to jail. An angel comes to help him. George thinks that everyone would be better off if he’d never been born. The angel gives him that wish. From there, George is shown what things would have been like if he’d never been born … and it wasn’t pleasant. It was a nightmare. During his life, his real life, George had been a friend to so many people and made a big difference. He was the “richest man in town” because he had so many friends. This doesn’t have to be a big thing, and not a permanent thing. For Make a Friend Day, just say something nice to someone. Be a friend to someone if only long enough to say, “Hello, Mrs. Northy!” Maybe you have someone in class who seems lonely, or perhaps a new neighbor.
FEBRUARY 12 – LINCOLN’S BIRTHDAY
Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809. He worked very hard, and his family was poor. Still, he educated himself. He refused to just give up! In 1860 he became President of the United States. He understood very well that with hard work and honesty, anyone can succeed. If you like history, this was an amazing time. America was expanding. The northern states wanted to change how people lived, and the southern states didn’t like some of those ideas. This caused the Civil War. Among other things, that stirred the railroads to go from coast to coast, which increased expansion, which caused a whole string of tales of the wild, wild west. Lincoln was killed in 1865 – shot while he was watching a stage play. A popular visiting place is the Lincoln Monument in Washington, DC. If you can’t get there, find a penny and look at the back. There is the Lincoln Monument, and if you look closely, there is Honest Abe himself.
FEBRUARY 13 – FRIDAY THE 13TH
Nobody knows for sure how this superstition came about. Many say it has to do with the crucifixion of Jesus. It is said that the last supper was on a Thursday, and the crucifixion the next day, Friday. There were the twelve disciples at the supper, with Jesus being the thirteenth. Interesting is that some countries consider Tuesday the 13th as the unlucky day. In Italy, some worry about Friday the 17th.
FEBRUARY 14 – FERRIS WHEEL
A rotating wheel that would carry people around, up and down, has been around for a very long time. At first, it was turned by men or animals. The first known is thought to have been in Turkey and called an “ups and downs.” In 1893, George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. built a big one for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Ever since, most people call them “Ferris Wheels.” They keep getting bigger and bigger. From the first that was probably 10 feet high, the tallest today is the High Roller in Las Vegas at 550 feet high. It doesn’t have benches, it has comfy cars.
FEBRUARY 15 – GUMDROP
Gumdrops are a candied gelatin. There are lots of candies like them, but not really. You can find a simple recipe in Lunch With Nicker. The video clip involves heat so an adult should be part of it. Of course, you can celebrate by just having Mom or Dad get you a bag of gum drops at the store.
FEBRUARY 16 – PRESIDENT’S DAY
America has had 44 presidents so far. That can make things complicated. For some while, the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were celebrated – although some states skipped Lincoln and celebrated Thomas Jefferson instead. It was finally decided to make a single President’s Day. It has nothing to do with birthdays or anything else. It’s a day to celebrate all those who have been the leaders of America. What a great day to take some time to learn. What IS a president? Other countries have different kinds of leaders – different names.
FEBRUARY 17 – MARDI GRAS
It’s “Fat Tuesday” and a time to eat and party and eat still more before Lent. One of the biggest parties is in New Orleans. A million people, sometimes more, gather for some good – often crazy – times. It became with the idea of eating, eating, eating and then when you’re full, eating. Lent goes to Easter. During Lent, you’re not supposed to eat much, and what you eat is limited. So, Mardi Gras is the chance to eat NOW … then wait until Easter to eat, eat, eat again.
FEBRUARY 19 – CHINESE NEW YEAR (SHEEP)
The Chinese calendar is lunar. That means it is based on how the moon moves. And that means it is mostly about how to grow things to eat. The Chinese New Year is often called the Spring Festival because that’s when things to eat begin to grow better again. From there it gets confusing. In much of the world, New Year is January 1. People invented that so they didn’t have to keep changing things. It didn’t matter what the weather was or anything else. January 1 … New Year … there it is. Chinese New Year changes from year to year, and is usually celebrated not just for a day but for a week and more. This year brings us the Year of the Sheep.
FEBRUARY 20 – HOODIE HOO
Our friends at wellcat.com are always coming up with great and fun holidays. This is one of the best. It’s a “I’m tired of winter!!!” holiday. The idea is to go outside, raise your hands, and shout HOODIE HOO!!! to scare away the winter.
FEBRUARY 22 – WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY
The first president of America, after it became America, was George Washington. He was a general in the American Revolution. Because he was such a great leader, many others wanted him to BE the first real president. A monument was built in Washington, DC to honor him, and his face is on the dollar bill.
FEBRUARY 24 – TORTILLA CHIP
Although there are other kinds, most tortilla (tore-tee-yah) chips are made from wheat flour tortillas. They might be cut into strips, circles, triangles or some other shape. Many people eat them dipped in salsa. Salsa can also be made many different ways. Some are very hot, so if you’ve never had salsa before, be careful. One of Danny’s favorite ways is to spread the tortilla chips on a plate, put slices of cheese on and use a microwave for 30 seconds to melt the cheese. YUMMY!
FEBRUARY 26 – TELL A FAIRY TALE
Fairy tales aren’t just about fairies. There are ogres and other monsters. There are knights and princesses and frogs and even peas under mattresses. Nicker loves fairy tales. He even told one of his own. When you’re done reading that, watch Billy Goats Gruff.
FEBRUARY 27 – POLAR BEAR
These large animals have become popular recently. Some claim that they are drowning. One went so far as to say that there would be no polar bears in 30 years. First, although they look cuddly, these are not nice animals you’d want to have as a pet. They make a grizzly bear seem tame. (But they ARE fun to watch and learn about!) Second, they hibernate during the winter (now) and come out in the spring when the ice begins to melt. If it didn’t melt, they’d starve. The young are even taught how to punch holes in the ice so they can jump into that cold, cold, COLD water to fish and hunt. It’s what they do, and are known to swim 100 miles and more. Third, the number of polar bears is going down in a few places, mostly where people are building towns. In other places, there are more polar bears than ever. Pretty soon, the new cubs will be crawling out of their dens under the snow. Oh, by the way, polar bears live only in the Arctic – by the North Pole, not far from Santa, and always near the ocean where there is less ice (otherwise they have nothing to eat).
FEBRUARY 28 – TOOTH FAIRY
Stories about who, even what, the Tooth Fairy is change from place to place. The Tooth Fairy might come for your first tooth, or your sixth tooth, for all of your “baby” teeth. You might know to put the tooth under your pillow. In other places, the tooth is to be burned. No matter what, this is a good day to think about your teeth. Learn how to care for them.