February gets its name from the Latin word Roman festival of purification, called Februa. It used to be the last month of the year. It’s also the shortest month, with only 28 days most years. Once every four years, we have a leap year and there are 29 days in February. This is because it doesn’t take exactly 365 days for the Earth to travel around the Sun. We have to add an extra day so the calendar matches up with the seasons. In England, February 29th is traditionally the only day when a woman can ask a man to marry her, rather than the other way around!
At the start of February, it’s still winter and there’s still a chance of snow, but by the end of the month, there are a few signs of spring. The days are noticeably longer and the weather is slightly milder. The appearance of snowdrops, crocuses and early daffodils in the garden can also cheer people up after the long winter months.
February 14th is Valentine’s Day. This is a day for romance! People buy cards and gifts for their girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse. You can buy any kind of gift you like but the more thoughtful the better. The most popular gifts for women are probably chocolates, flowers (especially red roses) and jewellery. I think men are more difficult to buy for! Sometimes young children make a card for their parents but otherwise, it’s mostly a day for lovers, unlike in America, where people also give cards to friends. It’s common to have a romantic dinner in a restaurant or at home. Some people love this day while others think it has become too commercialised. It can be a depressing day if you’re single!
Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, usually falls in February, although it can sometimes be in March. It’s always 47 days before Easter Sunday and the date of Easter depends on the moon. Many years ago, these 47 days, called Lent, used to be a time for praying and eating simply. The idea of making pancakes was to use up all the rich food in the house before Lent began. Nowadays, people make pancakes just for fun. In England, pancakes are thin, like French crêpes, and the most popular topping is lemon juice and sugar, although some people prefer chocolate spread, jam or fruit. In some places, there are pancake races. People have to run with a frying pan, tossing the pancake in the air as they go without dropping it! These days, a few people give up something which they enjoy during Lent, such as eating chocolate or desserts.
If you would like to learn more about English life, try my e-book, "A Year in England". It contains a text like this for each month, plus a vocabulary list and reading comprehension questions. There are also bonus sections about Christmas and Easter. Click the image below or visit my shop.
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