Washington’s Birthday, also known as Presidents Day, is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. The holiday was first celebrated in 1879 to honor our first president, George Washington. Until 1971, the holiday was always observed on Washington’s actual birth date, February 22nd. Washington’s Birthday is also a state holiday in many states. Some states have combined Washington’s Birthday with a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12th), while others have officially designated the holiday a celebration of American presidents, in general. In Massachusetts, only George Washington is honored on this day.
Learn more about Presidents Day and our American presidents on our page of links.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is a lively celebration that marks the beginning of Lent, a solemn period of repentance and abstinence observed by many Christians. Mardi Gras offers a final opportunity to indulge and is traditionally marked by parades, music, parties and food. New Orleans is well known for its raucous Mardi Gras celebrations. If you cannot visit the French Quarter this Mardi Gras, see our page of links for other ways to celebrate festive event.
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the longest and most significant celebration in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese New Year begins on New Year’s Eve and continues until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the month. The Chinese year 4715, the Year of the Monkey, begins on February 8, 2016.
The Chinese New Year is typically celebrated among family. The centerpiece of the celebration is an elaborate meal of traditional foods thought to bring good luck, such as fish and and dumplings. The color red, which is also considered lucky, predominates during the New Year celebration. People wear red clothing, hang red lanterns and give gifts of red envelopes, usually containing money.
Learn more about this important holiday on our page of links.
Groundhog Day, celebrated on February 2, has its roots in an ancient Celtic celebration called Imbolog. The date is one of the four cross-quarter days of the year, the midpoints between the spring and fall equinoxes and the summer and winter solstice.
Imbolog, marking the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, was the most important of the cross-quarter days. In a society dependent on agriculture and therefore on the weather, this was a time to celebrate having made it halfway through winter. The superstition arose that if the weather was fair on Imbolog, the second half of the winter would be cold and stormy, but if the weather was cold and overcast or stormy, the second half of the winter would be mild.
Today we rely upon Punxsutawney Phil, a Pennsylvania groundhog, to let us know what our fate will be. If February 2nd is sunny and Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If the day is cloudy, we can look forward to an earlier spring. Learn more about Groundhog Day on our page of links.
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, is the New Year for Trees. This is the date used to calculate the age of trees for tithing. It has become a custom to collect money on this date to plant trees in Israel. The day may also be celebrated with fruits, especially those associated with Israel.
This year, Tu B’Shevat falls on January 24th. Learn more about this holiday on our page of links.
During February we celebrate African American History Month, also known as Black History Month. At this time we pay special attention to the contributions of African Americans to arts, culture, science, industry and society as a whole throughout American history. Please see our page of links for resources for celebrating African American History Month.