Even if it is short, February, the second month of the year according to the Gregorian calendar and the only one that has 28 days (29 in leap years), to us seems never-ending! And although it is usually the period in which Carnival occurs with the Thursday before Lent and Shrove Tuesday, in northern countries it really doesn’t quite manage to be merry because of the cold conditions. This year Carnival ends on 17 February, Ash Wednesday, a day of penance.
For the Romans, it was a month devoted to purification rites: it symbolized the reawakening of nature from the torpor of winter. And, actually, here in Italy/ it is during this month that the first flowers begin to open.
For Christians, 2 February is the popular feast of Candlemas that recalls the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and to which country tradition ascribed a meteorological significance. The custom was to light candles, evidently to piously call upon the power of the coming light. In North America, the day we celebrate Candlemas is also Groundhog Day, but the deep significance of this date is the same: counting how many days, more or less, are left until the end of winter.
And so, we have many proverbs, even in dialect, that refer precisely to Candlemas. Here is an Umbrian proverb: La Madonna Candelora de l’inverno semo fora, ma se piove o tira vento de l’inverno semo drento, that is, on the feast of the Madonna of Candlemas, we are out of winter, but if it rains or is windy, then we are still in winter and it will last a long time, at least 40 days more.
However, winter or not, 14 February is for celebrating Saint Valentine, bishop of Terni, martyr and patron saint of lovers who trust in the warmth of their affection while waiting for spring.