As we all probably know, Valentine’s Day never started out being about love or chocolate. It was also never really about the saint. No, before that, Valentine’s Day was important to farmers for a few different reasons.
By the time the middle of February came along, farmers knew that the cold dark days of winter were almost over. In old farmer’s lore, mid-February “broke winter’s back.” So that time of year became pretty important to farmers. They could look forward once again to warmer days, more sunshine, and the planting of crops and birthing of animals.
In medieval times, people also believed that birds mated at this time which was the beginning of the whole “love is in the air” part of Valentine’s Day. Before the 1500s Valentine’s Day was not celebrated the way it is now. Although no one is entirely sure why chocolate has become so important to be given and received on Valentine’s Day, we do know that handmade Valentines were being made and given to sweethearts from admirers by the mid-1500s. It was not till the early 1800s that it became customary for people to send cards to their Valentines, usually anonymously. By 1822 an English postal worker reported having to hire extra staff to deliver the many cards in time for this now special day.
So how does this tie into farming? Well, let’s go back a little more in history and have a look. The word February originally comes from the Latin word “februa”, which means “to cleanse.” Romans used to spend the entire month celebrating Februalia, which was a festival of purification and atonement. This mindset jumped over to farmers of later times, who would begin preparations for another busy spring by cleaning out the barns, the old grain, and likely even the farmhouse. It was time to begin looking forward to all the wonders and new beginnings of spring!
The entire month of February was important to farmers as well for being able to forecast the remainder of the year, not just spring. I will leave you with some interesting folklore sayings that are just as true today for farmers as they were so many years ago. Happy February!
* Violent north winds in February herald a fertile year.
* If February give much snow, a fine summer it does foreshow.
* Fogs in February mean frosts in May.
and for the lovebirds out there:
* Married in February’s sleety weather, Life in tune you’ll tread together.