I guess the most important date we think of in February is the 14th. Yet there are a number of special dates for people in this month.
The church begins the month with Candlemas, or the presentation of Jesus in the temple by his mother Mary and earthly father, Joseph as according to Jewish rite.
Then there is the Blessing of the Salmon nets in Northumberland, where close to midnight on 14th February, fishermen gather on the banks of the River Tweed when local vicar blesses the nets and boats. The fishermen then set out to make their first catch of the season.
And of course, when it comes to marriage, proposing has always been seen as the gentleman’s prerogative, but once every four years Leap Year tradition has it that on the 29th of February, women can ask their loves to marry them.
But where did this tradition begin? it’s believed to have started in Ireland sometime during the 5th century. Saint Brigid of Kildare, arguing that women were languishing away waiting for their shy beaux to pluck up the nerve to pop the question, asked Saint Patrick to give a day they might do the deed themselves. A little negotiating was involved, with Saint Patrick first suggesting every seven years, but eventually 4 years was settled on. According to folklore, Saint Brigid then immediately proposed marriage to the Irish saint.
(However, scientists will tell you that an extra day every four years keeps our calendar aligned correctly with the astronomical seasons….but I like the idea of Brigid proposing to Patrick better!!)
But Valentine is the saint we celebrate in February, usually with flowers and cards and chocolates, but did you know he is also the patron saint of beekeepers, ensuring the sweetness of the honey?
St Valentines day is all about love. And as the song says “love is all around us”, even though it may not always seem like it when we read the papers or watch the news. But there are examples of love all around us, when a neighbour helps another neighbour out, when we offer a shoulder for someone to lean on for a while, when people come together as a community to help those less fortunate and more vulnerable among us.
At the end of the day, no matter what the day, it all comes down to love. We all want to love and be loved. And as Thomas A Kempis the German-Dutch clergyman and author wrote….
Love is a great thing, yea, a great and thorough good.
By itself it makes that which is heavy light.
It carries a burden which is no burden; it will not be kept back by anything low and mean. It desires to be free from all worldly affections.
Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength,
pleads no excuse of impossibility.
It is therefore able to undertake all things, and it completes many things and warrants them to take effect, where he who does not love would faint and lie down.
Though weary, it is not tired; though pressed it is not straightened;
It is not confounded; but as a living flame it forces itself upwards and securely passes through all.
With my love and blessings,