Essay — February Rites

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February plays host to American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day, and in Carpenter Country, spring, despite the pessimism of a northern groundhog named Phil.

The first two occasions offer quite a conflict of interest. Do we eat healthy and protect our hearts or scarf down candy and toast Cupid with champagne?

These days we can do both and be glad we have a choice. That wasn’t always the case.

Some say that once upon a time Valentine’s Day was a festival called Lupercalia. This ancient ceremony, which was thought to have originated when the Romans were still shepherds, was a fertility rite with sacrifices and feasting. And no, the feasts did not include candy or heart healthy food.

After lots of wine, rambunctious youths, clad in goatskin, ran around touching and slapping everyone they saw with leather thongs. The ritual was thought to make people fertile. If you were in their path you were slapped, like it or not.

Other versions about how Valentine’s Day got started exist, but whatever the truth, here in Carpenter Country we’re just happy we live in the 21st century. We’re also happy that, besides Heart Month and Valentine’s, modern-day February heralds the beginning of spring.

We know, because a red-breasted robin (and several hundred followers) landed in our backyard the other day. For a time, standing room only prevailed at the birdbath. Then clouds moved in, showers watered the garden, and the wild plum tree burst into an extravagance of purple blossoms. Next we’ll see white dogwood flowers, nesting bluebirds—-but not a trace of Phil the groundhog.

We hope your plans for February are as enjoyable as ours: celebrating Valentine’s with a sweetheart, eating heart-healthy meals, and singing about spring.




HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter duo who write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit Carpenter Country at


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