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February Holidays & Events 2024



Happy February! Are we already on to the second month of 2024? It’s flying by pretty quickly! February has a lot going on throughout the month, which can be odd to think about since it is the shortest month of the year. What holiday or event is the first one that comes to mind when you think of what goes on during the month of February? Here is a quick glance at what February 2024 is looking like:


  • Month of February: Black History Month, Library Lovers’ Month

  • February 2: Groundhog Day

  • February 4 or 5: Rosa Parks Day

  • February 11: Superbowl Sunday

  • February 13: Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday

  • February 14: Valentine’s Day

  • February 19: Presidents’ Day

  • February 29: Leap Day of 2024 Leap Year[1]


Black History Month


Every February, we honor, recognize, and celebrate Black History Month. The purpose of this designated celebratory month is to acknowledge the impactful contributions that African Americans have made to United States history. Every year, there is a different, unique theme appointed to centralize the focus for that year. For 2024, the theme is “African Americans and the Arts,” which means this month, we will celebrate and appreciate beautiful artwork created by African Americans that has been shared with the world.


From artists with unique styles like Robert Seldon Duncanson to Kara Walker, there are some miraculous works of art, such as sculptures, paintings, drawings, and more.[2] The National Gallery of Art has segmented some pieces from African American artists in honor of Black History Month to spotlight their breathtaking creations. Look at some art that has beautifully made its mark in American art history here.


Read our February Historical Happenings blog to learn more in-depth information about the meaning and history of Black History Month!


Library Lovers’ Month


Reading is a big part of many people’s everyday life. Whether it is diving into your favorite novel daily, checking text messages, or reading the label of a cereal box at the grocery store, reading will normally always be a part of your daily activities. For some, it may look slightly different if it is reading Braille, but it’s still reading! Many libraries normally provide more free learning and educational opportunities than just physical books. With the use of their computers, lots of times there are many educational learning resources to use to anyone’s advantage - for adults and children!


Nowadays, many people do not take full advantage of their library anymore, but visiting the local library is a great way to explore new authors, titles, and genres, and maybe even the opportunity to join a local community book club! One of the best parts about it is that it’s free! Getting a library card and checking out a book (unless you turn it in late and might have to pay a small fee) can all be free instead of going to a bookstore and purchasing the same book for around twenty to thirty dollars these days. Better yet, most librarians will help you find something if you are unsure what you want to read next! They can give recommendations, tell you what is popular or trendy at the time, and potentially offer some of their favorite reads for you to consider yourself.


If you are a teacher and/or have children of your own, it is a great way to get the kids out of the house on a Saturday afternoon or during the summer, for example. Instead of video games or watching TV, a library trip is another perfect source for that story-telling dynamic many children look for and love. Many libraries have adorable, engaging children’s sections for the young ones to completely fall in love with library visits. Not only will they find something eye-catching to read, but the environment of many libraries is a cozy, welcoming place just to sit and read all day long.


Encourage your children and students to ask their parents to take them on a library visit this month! While the children are looking for their next read, the adults can look through their options, whether a novel, magazine selections or a variety of audiobooks. Don’t forget to visit your local library to read for free as often as you want. Become a library lover if you aren’t already one, and celebrate Library Lovers’ Month this February!


Groundhog Day


Did you see what Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction was this year? He did not see his shadow on February 2, so we will have an early spring in 2024![3] Tradition states that if Phil the Groundhog sees his shadow on February 2, we will sadly have six more weeks of cold winter days. However, an early spring is upon us if the shadow is NOT seen!


Have you ever wondered what the origin story behind Groundhog Day was and why we celebrate it every February? The first Groundhog Day occurred in 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The tradition started with the older Christian holiday, Candlemas, which was when blessed candles that were needed during the cold winter would be handed out. These candles would represent how cold and long the winter would be that year.


Later on, the Germans also picked up on this tradition, but they decided to add a sort of mascot to their new tradition: a hedgehog that would predict the weather for them. Eventually, some German settlers came to Pennsylvania and wanted to uphold their traditions in America as well. The only difference was that they changed their first chosen animal, the hedgehog, to a groundhog since they were abundant in their new home.


What about the actual groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil? Well, groundhogs, also known as “woodchucks” or “whistle pigs,” live about six to eight years and can weigh up to about 15 pounds. Towards the end of the fall season, they will hibernate and normally not wake up until sometime in March. When they go into their long rest, their body temperatures and heart rates drop very low, and they can lose quite a bit of their body fat. Male groundhogs wake from their hibernation first, normally sometime in February, to begin looking for mates. They go back into their long nap for about another month or so, and they will officially emerge from their hibernation with the rest of their groundhog friends sometime in March.[4]


Rosa Parks Day


We honor and recognize Rosa Parks's brave, courageous acts on Rosa Parks Day. Some particular states celebrate this day on different days of the year: some on December 1 (the actual day in history when Parks refused to give her seat up), February 4 (her birthday), or the first Monday after her birthday, which is February 5 in 2024.[5] During the Civil Rights Movement, she was responsible for the commencement of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. This boycott lasted for about a year with the help of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Before the bus boycott, Parks, formerly McCauley before she married, lived in Pine Level, Alabama, with her parents and younger brother. She was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913 but didn’t live there long. When she was 11 years old, she moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and attended school for a while, but she had to drop out at age 16 to care for her sick grandmother and, eventually, her sick mother. At age 19, she married Raymond Parks, a barber who was self-educated and a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was also a big supporter of Parks getting her high school diploma, which she later earned after not having the chance to finish high school.


In 1943, she became the chapter secretary of the Montgomery NAACP. She worked closely with Edgar Daniel (E.D.) Nixon, the president of the Montgomery chapter. Not too long after her joining, she was arrested in 1955 for the famous incident of Parks not giving up her seat on the bus to a white male. She called her husband with her one-allowed phone call from jail, and E.D. Nixon was there for her release as well since word spread quickly of her arrest.


Rosa Parks’s revolutionary act initiated the bus boycott and got the ball rolling quickly with the protest, but there was a much larger involvement from the Black community than they were expecting. After seeing how many people were on board with the boycott, civil rights leaders realized they wanted to manage their protests properly by creating the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. serving as the president. This was just the beginning of Parks’s efforts to support the community and aid in civil rights fights.[6] 


Later in life, Parks and her husband moved to Detroit, Michigan, where her brother lived. Between the years 1977 and 1979, she lost her mother, brother, and husband all to cancer. She co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development to serve Detroit’s youth in 1987, and she retired in 1988 after working in her position as an administrative aide in the Detroit office of Congressman John Conyers, Jr. for about 23 years. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Metal in 1999, and after her passing in 2005, she became the first woman and second person of color in history to lay in honor at the Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol.[7] 


Superbowl Sunday


Are you a big football fan? Who were you rooting for to win this year? Even if they are not fans, many people still take the opportunity to get together with friends and family to throw parties and make some great food or grill out for Super Bowl Sunday! This year, the San Francisco 49ers played against the Kansas City Chiefs on February 11 in the fifty-eighth Super Bowl. It was the first Super Bowl to take place in Las Vegas at the new Allegiant Stadium. The special half-time show performer was Usher, a singer, songwriter, and popular R&B and pop artist.[8] 


For those who are not football fans, the halftime show tends to be the more popular attraction of the day. If it’s not the halftime show that draws viewers, then the crazy Super Bowl commercials will! Do you have a favorite Superbowl commercial you remember from past years? Is it the “Hare Jordan” commercial from 1993, where Bugs Bunny met Michael Jordan on the basketball court? Or maybe it’s the 2018 “It’s a Tide Ad” commercial with David Harbour from Stranger Things?[9] There are so many to choose from, so how could just one be your favorite?


Congratulations to the Super Bowl LVIII Champions of 2024: the Kansas City Chiefs! In case you missed the game, the final score was 22 - 25 after playing in overtime.


Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday


Parades, masks, beads, parties, and king cakes - so many decorations and festivities go into Mardi Gras and its traditions yearly, especially in New Orleans, Louisiana! Have you ever wondered where it all started, where the holiday got its name, or how the traditions behind the stories came to be? Well, let’s dive right in!


The French phrase “Mardi Gras” translates to Fat Tuesday in English. The main purpose of the holiday is to celebrate one last day of luxurious foods and certain eating habits before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.[10] During Lent, people who partake will practice fasting and give up something that would challenge that person. It can be giving up desserts, watching TV, or maybe social media - just something that one would find difficult not having for a long period of time. This Christian holiday lasts 40 days, starting with Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Thursday/The Last Supper, which falls on March 28 this year, then leading up to Easter on March 31, 2024.[11] The duration of participating in Lent traditions represents the 40 days Jesus struggled and avoided temptation from the devil in the desert after his baptism.[12] 


Mainly celebrated in New Orleans, specific traditions occur yearly, depending on which krewe (a club or organization) organizes what. A big one that normally happens is pre-Mardi Gras balls. These are fairly formal, private balls (typically masquerade balls to match the Mardi Gras theme and tradition of wearing masks) thrown by the king and queen of that krewe.[13] Tradition is that the krewe king and queen keep their identity a secret and do not remove their masks. There are several krewes that exist, but there are a few that are a bit more notorious for their extravagant, history-making balls and Mardi Gras after-parties: Krewe of Bacchus, Krewe of Orpheus, and Krewe of Endymion.


Besides the specifics, many people think about the extravagant parades, music, and food that are a huge part of Mardi Gras. Have you ever tried a king cake during Mardi Gras? If you haven’t, it is a coffee cake and cinnamon roll combination that is typically covered in green, yellow, and purple frosting to represent Mardi Gras colors. There is a tiny, plastic baby hidden somewhere in or on the cake, and whoever gets it in their slice is responsible for purchasing next year’s king cake and/or throwing a Mardi Gras party.


Do you and your friends and family celebrate Mardi Gras? What are your favorite traditions or activities?


Valentine’s Day


Are you more of a Valentine person or a Galentine person? Maybe both! Either way, take the opportunity to show the person or people in your life that you truly care about and appreciate them. Have you ever wondered about when, where, and who started Valentine’s Day in the first place? Who is Saint Valentine?


The history of Saint Valentine and this designated day named after him actually has several different stories and theories behind it. No one really knows exactly what happened or which Valentine the holiday is named after, as there were several people named Valentine. One theory is that St. Valentine secretly married couples in the Roman Empire behind the scenes to keep them together so that the man would have a smaller chance of getting drafted for war.[14] Another theory says that there was a man named Valentine who was a priest, and while he was in jail, he wrote a note to his jailer’s daughter, signing it  “From your Valentine.” This is theorized to be the first written valentine, beginning the tradition of writing and passing out valentine cards and notes.[15] Some even say that the holiday is rooted in an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, which was celebrated to recognize the beginning of the spring season and women’s fertility.


Nowadays, the holiday is used as a day to buy your loved one's roses, boxes of chocolates, teddy bears or simply make it known how much you appreciate them. Do you have Valentine’s Day traditions? For the teachers out there, what are some fun Valentine’s Day activities you are planning for the classroom this year?


Read our February Historical Happenings blog for more details about the history and exciting traditions of Valentine’s Day!


Presidents’ Day


Annually, every third Monday in February is Presidents’ Day. In 2024, the holiday falls on February 19. Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday in the United States, and it was originally created to honor and remember our first president, George Washington. The holiday occurred for the first time in 1800, the following year after Washington’s death in 1799. His birthday was February 22, so that was when the holiday used to take place every year.


It did not officially become a federal holiday until sometime in the 1870s, starting only in the District of Columbia and spreading to the whole country in 1885. In earlier days, however, this holiday was used as a day to reinstate the Purple Heart, a prestigious military decoration that honored military personnel who were injured or killed while serving. This award was originally created by George Washington as well.


For many, this day is used as an opportunity to teach students about some of the impactful accomplishments of some of the most popular former presidents. However, some schools close for Presidents’ Day, so it might actually be taught a day or so before the actual holiday. Some schools, post offices, and banks are closed, and some non-essential federal workers get the day off of work.[16] 


Leap Day (of the 2024 Leap Year)


Happy leap year! Every four years, we add an extra day onto February, which is the only time we see February 29 on the calendar! We all know that there are 365 days in a year, but did you know that that number is actually rounded up? It actually takes Earth 365.242190 days to orbit the Sun, or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 56 seconds. If we didn’t take that leap day every four years, the four seasons would start to not match up like they normally would.[17] As odd as it may seem, it is important to have the leap year to keep the proper seasons in order and not have it be 40-degree weather when it is supposed to be summer! 


Have you ever met someone born on the leap day of a leap year? Their birthday only appears on the calendars every four years - how crazy is that?!


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Sources:


[1] Sorren, Martha, and Terri Robertson. “February Holidays and Observances 2024 Calendar - Country Living.” Country Living, 8 Jan. 2024, www.countryliving.com/entertaining/a37765470/february-holidays-and-observances/.

[2] National Gallery of Art. “Black Art & Artists in Our Collection.” Celebrate Black Art & Artists for Black History Month, www.nga.gov/features/black-artists.html. Accessed 1 Feb. 2024.

[3] Hartman, Sydney. “Groundhog Day 2024: Punxsutawney Phil Makes His Prediction.” WTAE, WTAE, 2 Feb. 2024, www.wtae.com/article/groundhog-day-2024-punxsutawney-phil/46623648#:~:text=Punxsutawney%20Phil%20has%20spoken%3A%20An,if%20he%20saw%20his%20shadow.

[4] History.com Editors. “First Groundhog Day | February 2, 1887.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 24 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-groundhog-day.

[6] History.com Editors. “Rosa Parks: Bus Boycott, Civil Rights & Facts.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/black-history/rosa-parks.

[7] Clemens, Janet. “Shaping History: Women in Capitol Art.” Capitol Visitor Center, U.S. Capitol - Visitor Center.

[8] Nfl. “Welcome to Super Bowl LVIII!” NFL.Com, NFL, 2 Jan. 2024, www.nfl.com/super-bowl/event-info/.

[9] Wolfinsohn, Debby. “The 20 Best Super Bowl Commercials of All Time.” EW.Com, Entertainment Weekly, 10 Feb. 2023, ew.com/tv/best-super-bowl-commercials-of-all-time/.

[10] History.com Editors. “Mardi Gras - Meaning, Origin & Traditions.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 25 Jan. 2010, www.history.com/topics/holidays/mardi-gras.

[11] Catholic Online. “Holy Thursday / The Last Supper - Easter / Lent.” Catholic Online, www.catholic.org/lent/thurs.php. Accessed 8 Feb. 2024.

[12] Lucey, Candice. “What Is Lent’s Meaning and Purpose?” Christianity.Com, 30 Jan. 2024, www.christianity.com/wiki/holidays/what-is-the-purpose-of-lent.html.

[13] Mardi Gras New Orleans. Mardi Gras New Orleans, www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2024.

[14] The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Valentine’s Day.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 10 Feb. 2024, www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day.

[15] History.com Editors. “Valentine’s Day 2024: Origins, Background & Traditions.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 22 Dec. 2009, www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2.

[16] History.com Editors. “Presidents’ Day 2024 - Date & Holiday.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 26 Oct. 2010, www.history.com/topics/holidays/presidents-day.

[17] Craddock, Bob. “The Science of Leap Year.” National Air and Space Museum, 27 Feb. 2020, airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/science-leap-year.

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