If it’s February, so we must be halfway through winter. Well, maybe.
Somehow, it always seems like we're winning the battle with winter when February comes along. Now it’s “downhill toward spring” rather than “uphill into the dead of winter” — late-winter blizzards notwithstanding.
As we head through February, cabin fever subsides — a little — the days are longer, the groundhog at last comes out of its hibernation hole, although he sometimes has bad news about the early arrival of spring. There’s Valentine’s Day to look forward to, as well as Pancake Day and high heating bills.
Sorry, I seem to have lost my optimistic momentum, but I’m sure you know what I mean. There may not be a light visible at the end of the winter tunnel yet, but we know it’s there somewhere and we’re slowly getting closer.
Let’s peruse the short February calendar:
February 2 — It was on this day in 1947 that Canada’s lowest ever temperature was recorded: a teeth-chattering -63°C at Snag in the Yukon. The “popsicle-ized” people of Snag said things such as “Yeah, but it's not so bad. It’s a ‘dry cold.’” Sure, right.
February 5 — The Super Bowl. Let's ponder Super Bowl XXXXVIIIIIIIII ... uh ... whatever!
It’s actually XLVI, or the 46th annual edition of the Super Bowl in American football, and the 42nd annual championship game of the modern-era National Football League (NFL). It will be held Sunday, February 5, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Here’s a quick Super Bowl trivia quiz:
• When was the first Super Bowl, what teams played and who won? The answers is at the end of the column.
In terms of Super Bowl whimsy, you know you’re watching the Super Bowl when:
• The commentators say that the suspense is so thick, “You could cut it with a knife.”
• They describe a player as, “Wanting it so badly he can taste it.”
• Vince Lombardi is frequently mentioned.
• During an interview, a fan in the background holds up a “We’re No.1” sign.
• There is a camera shot of a player’s wife and baby in the stands.
• Mention is made of “giving 110 per cent.”
• There is a shot of any player congratulating another player by butting him helmet-to-helmet or belly-to-belly.
• They take a shot of a bar in the winning team’s city.
• A broadcaster gets squirted with champagne.
• They say that the losing team, “Has nothing to be ashamed of.”
February 7, 1804 — Do you know who was born on this day?
It was John Deere, the inventor of the riding mower bearing his name. But I’m getting ahead of the story. John Deere is the fellow who invented the prairie-sod-busting steel plow. The riding mower came later and people with vast expanses of lawn are very grateful.
February 8, 1928 — A new-fangled “television image” was transmitted from Purley, England, to Hartsdale, New York. There’s no truth to the rumour that it was a reality TV show about “cross-dressing former lovers who think their current cross-dressing lovers dress funny.” Also not true was that the show was offered on a higher cable-tier by negative option, resulting in a higher monthly fee.
February 9 — This is the day to remember St. Apollonia. In AD 249, she was tortured during the Christian persecution of the Roman Emperor Decius by having her teeth knocked out, Rather than say blasphemous words as her torturers demanded, she leaped into the flames of a fire. She became the patron saint of dentists and people with toothaches. Strange, but true. You could look it up in the dental trivia archives, as I did, with the help of my dentist, Dr. Nova Caine.
February 11 — National Inventor's Day, which is in honour of Thomas Edison, who was born on this day in 1847. Edison became known as the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” which is now Edison, New Jersey, and rightly so. Among his inventions were the incandescent light bulb — he didn’t really invent the light bulb, but he improved it by using a carbon filament — the microphone, the phonograph and the motion picture camera.
February 14 — Valentine’s Day. There are plenty of theories about its origin and more than one St. Valentine is mentioned in the legends that primarily date back to the Middle Ages. Here’s one of the many. In AD 270, a priest named Valentine sent a note to a girl who was very kind to him, signed “Your Valentine.” The legend goes on to say that Valentine caused trouble for the Emperor Claudius Gothicus. Roman soldiers were tired of war and did not want to leave their wives and go off to battle. The angry emperor decreed that there would be no more marriages, but romantic Valentine married several couples in secret. Claudius was not amused and Valentine was beheaded. St. Valentine then became the patron saint of lovers.
February 21 — Shrove Tuesday. It derives its name from the word “shrive,” which means “to hear or make a confession.”
Ever wonder how it came to be known as Pancake Day? Well, it started back in the 11th century as a day set aside for feasting prior to the Lenten fast. Feasting before Ash Wednesday was necessary to finish the foods that couldn’t be eaten during Lent, such as meat, cheese, butter, milk, eggs and bacon. Sounds like a cholesterol-in-overdrive breakfast, doesn’t it?
Pancakes were a perfect menu item for the pre-Lent feast and became very popular in England on Shrove Tuesday. This increased consumption of rich foods led to other names such as Butter Week in Russia and Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) in France.
Here’s a little extra trivia at no extra charge. North American pancake mix was invented by the Pearl Milling Company. One partner named the mix, Aunt Jemima, in 1889 after a popular minstrel show song.
February 29 — Leap Year Day. Somehow, adding even just one day to any of the winter months seems like adding insult to injury — even when it’s tagged onto the shortest month.
Super Bowl trivia answers
The first Super Bowl was in 1967. The teams were the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Green Bay won 35-10.