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The Story of the Month: February

February is the second month of the year still young. Something has already shown us, but much leaves us to discover. Some people begin with a sprint, while others begin with slow motions.early to form an opinion. It is preferable to observe.

Carnival

In February, it is impossible not to talk about Carnival. In Italy, we celebrate two types of Carnival: that of the Ambrosian rite and that of the Roman rite. In Milan and the provinces (except Monza), the last day of Carnival is Saturday, while in the rest of Italy it is Tuesday.

Carnival

This feast is celebrated in all countries of Christian tradition, especially the Catholic ones. It is a mobile holiday, which in Italy falls six weeks before Easter, whose date is also mobile.

There are many versions of why the Milan Carnival is longer. The one I like best shows that Ambrose, the city’s bishop, loved to have fun, so he willingly lengthened the carnival festivities.

This year it starts on February 24, Fat Thursday. Mardi Gras is March 1, while in Milan, Fat Thursday will be March 3, and the festivities will last until Saturday, March 5.

Two words about the etymology and meaning of this colorful shindig: Carnival derives from the Latin carnem levare, “to remove meat.” This meant a period of abstinence and fasting at the time.

Carnival symbolism has learned and literary connotations. In Shakespeare’s comedy The Twelfth Night (The Twelfth Night), we learn about exchanges of roles and misunderstandings. In England, the Epiphany is called the Twelfth Night, and it is believed that the order of the world is overturned, the dead argue with the living, and animals talk. The well-known literary critic, Michajl Bachtin, uses the metaphor of Carnival to analyse texts. He highlights the novelty and the narrative depth in Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky.

Carnival celebrates chaos, the disruption of established order: the servant becomes master, the high becomes low, evil becomes good, the inside becomes the outside…This overturning of the order is fundamental so that, after it has been purified, it can be re-established, renewed and last until the following year. By dissolving the known image of the world, the llud tempus, the mythical time, the golden age of the origins, is restored. At this time, the souls of the dead circulate on earth, so they are given a body, represented by the mask.

Carnival announces the arrival of spring after the darkness and dryness of winter. The new season brings lifeblood, new life, and fertility.Carnival is, therefore, a rite of passage between the world beyond and the world of the earth. The mask takes on an apotropaic meaning, that is to say, a supernatural one: it keeps away evil spirits. Harlequin, Punchinello, are all characters of the Underworld who came to earth to overturn the known world.

At the end, to re-establish the purified order, the funeral of the Carnival is celebrated, the puppet that represents the King of the Carnival is burned, and everything goes back to “normal” until the following year.

In Italy, there are some great Carnivals, such as Venice and Viareggio, where special sweets are made, such as chiacchiere, frittele, frappe, and tortelli. The streets become a riot of color with confetti and streamers, and the alleys are adorned with damsels, fairies, the characters of Star Wars, or the more classic Zorro.

In the world, the most famous “Carnaval” is undoubtedly that of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. In the United Kingdom, there is the famous Notting Hill Carnival and the Liverpool Braziliza Carnival.

In Russia, after the interruption of the Soviet period, people have resumed celebrating Carnival, called Maslenica (Масленица). This year in Moscow, the carnival week starts on February 28 and ends on March 6. The name is derived from the word maslo, which means “meat,” and serves as a reminder that during Carnival, only dairy products and eggs were permitted to be consumed in preparation for the long Lenten season.In Russia, Carnival is also a movable feast, falling eight weeks before Orthodox Easter. The last Sunday of carnival week is called “Forgiveness Sunday,” Prošnoe Voskresen’e (Прошное Воскресенье).

The name February

February, on the other hand, does not end with Carnival because, as you may know, it is the shortest month of the year, lasting only 28 days (or 29 in a leap year). This extra day serves to avoid the slippage of the seasons (alas, when they weren’t yet affected by global warming!). The Romans added the extra day after February 24 and it was called bis sextus Kalendas Martias, hence “leap year.”

The name “February” comes from the Latin word “februare,” meaning “to purify, to make up for mistakes.” In this month, the rites of purification were held in honor of the goddess Febris. The culmination of the celebrations was on February 14. With the advent of Christianity, the name was changed to Saint Febronia, which was finally supplanted by Saint Valentine, the Saint of lovers.

In February, Candlemas is celebrated on the 2nd of the month, commemorating the presentation of Mary to the temple forty days after giving birth, a period considered impure. At Candlemas, candles and candles are lit, symbols of light and purification.

February among the Celts

In Celtic tradition, February is dedicated to the goddess Brigit, goddess of fire, healing, and tradition. When civilization was agrarian, life followed the rhythm of the seasons, and February was the month of rest, repair, or creation of tools. A bad period, actually, because if the year was not good, supplies would begin to run out.

According to the Celtic calendar, during the month of February is celebrated the most important day of winter after the solstice, Imbolc, which fell on February 1, in the middle position between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It was the festival of life being renewed. The birth of lambs, the light returning after winter, a new vital energy in nature and individuals were the witnesses of this change.

Imbolc is also the feast of fire, which is why numerous bonfires were lit, symbols of light. But fire also represents the triple quality of the goddess Brigit: the fire of poetry, healing, and blacksmithing. Brigit was also the embodiment of magical power: poetry and words were both magical and sacred.And I believe they still are.

Metalworking was also a magical practice, an art that came down to the Middle Ages and beyond thanks to the alchemists.

The power of healing is honored through Brigit’s many sources in Ireland and the UK that are mirror. The mirror is an object of divination, looking into the Other World. The spinning wheel represents what, for the Romans, was the power of the three Fates: spinning our destinies. The flower of the goddess is the snowdrop, the first to bloom, white because it recalls purity. In my novel Fathomless Destiny, Gwyny, one of the main characters, is Celtic, and her father is a great druid; the goddess Brigit also appears in the story.

Th Cicle of the Months (Aosta Cathedral, Italy)

Representations

Of considerable artistic and religious importance are the cycles of the months, already known in ancient Greece, where the months were personified, while during the Middle Ages the months were represented as allegories. The representations of the months showed the typical work of each month, when civilization was still peasant. In the Cycle of the Months in the Cathedral of Aosta, it is clear that time is regulated by God, seated at the center of the twelve months. To emphasize their sacredness, the months were frequently represented by zodiac signs, but not only: in the peasant era, it was important to know the rising of the sun and moon, the succession of full moons and old moons, and which planets were in the sky, in order to regulate sowing and harvesting.

The representation of February in Aosta Cathedral, Italy

February is the month of Aquarius, from January 21 to February 19, an air sign in need of freedom.

The symbol of Acquarius

February in the literary world

Among the great writers born in February, we remember Charles Dickens, born in Portsmouth on February 7, 1812, and died in Higham on June 9, 1870. A lecturer and essayist, he wrote extensively. His best-known novels are David Copperfield, Oliver Twist (do not miss the film by director Roman Polansky), Hard Times, and Little Dorrit (Little Dorrit).

Paul Auster, an American, born on February 3, 1947 in Newark, is a writer of great narrative power. The themes dearest to him are chance and coincidence, a sense of impending disaster, an obsessive writer as the protagonist, loss of the ability to understand and speak, loss of money, bankruptcy, the absence of his father, writing and telling, intertextuality. The novels Leviathan, The Music of Chance, and The Book of Illusions are not to be missed.

Boris Pasternark, a Russian, was born in Moscow on February 10, 1890 and died in Peredelkino on May 30, 1960. He lived in one of the darkest periods of the Soviet era. In this regard, we remember an episode: in April 1934, the poet Osip Mandelštam recited to Pasternak his “Epigram of Stalin.” After listening, Pasternak said to his poet friend, “I didn’t hear it, you didn’t recite it to me, because, you know, now very strange and terrible things are happening: they have started to make people disappear. I’m afraid the walls have ears, and maybe even these benches here on the boulevard can hear and tell stories. So let’s say I didn’t hear anything. “

On the night of May 14, 1934, Mandelštam was arrested and disappeared from the living. Pasternak was devastated (if you want more details or sources, you can find them on here).

His Doctor Zhivago, his most important novel, was not published in the USSR, but at the instigation of the publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, it was smuggled to Italy, to Milan, and published in 1957. The following year, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize, but the Communist Party of the USSR forbade him to go and collect it.

My February

After all this information, legends, and holidays related to February, the time comes to say what this month means to me. Yes, that’s right: in February there is the Snow Moon (the second full moon, which in 2022 falls on February 16th). It brings snow, but it is a lazy snow, falling from the hearth, slippers and plaid on my lap. Of course, it’s also a good book in your hands. I’m reading The Library of Lost and Found and The House of Voices. From the delicacy of books that bind generations to the tremendous suspense of Carrisi, In all fields, at school, generally, the four-month period is over, the agitation for the organization of the new year is more or less settled, and the feverish anticipation of the changes we would like to see come true has become more of a kind of background music than the soundtrack.

The light that increases day by day and the red sunsets make me think more and more of the upcoming spring, and already, on some sunny days, you can feel life vibrating, that nervousness of who or what can’t stay still. You can see some shy buds and some violets popping up in the meadows. In February, I feel like taking care of myself. I feel the crisp air of freedom. Being an air sign myself, thinking about freedom feels like being carried dead on the waves. February loves the home, the coziness, but also its opposite: the party, the music, the dressing up, which allows us to become children again and pretend to be who we want to be. Maybe that’s why it’s a particularly creative month.

Here, in front of me, is a poster for Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift: February is about venturing into the unknown and not being afraid of it, but rather wanting to observe and learn, because if the world is enormous for the Lilliputians, it is a peanut for the Giants. By changing your point of view, the perception of things also changes. Nothing prevents us from being Lilliputians at times and giants at others.

And on the island of Laputa, there are wacky scientists who think they can replace the alphabet with objects represented by words! Unfortunately, they are not lost in the fog of time. The scientists of Laputa are still here today, filling our heads with abstruseness, when we just need security and hope.

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