Frank Phillips Library Columns

LEAP by Frank Phillips

by Frank PhillipsWOW! It’s February already, the year is 8.3333% over. While January kind of drags on with the post-holiday blahs, February shows up with a packed schedule and moves us one step closer to Spring. And this year, we get a special gift, a February 29th, more on that coming up. February begins with the grand tradition of folks gathering around a rodent hole in Pennsylvania waiting to see if said rodent casts and sees a shadow on his emergence. Well at 7:25AM, EST “Phil” as he is affectionately named by his handlers, did not see his shadow and as tradition dictates, an early Spring will ensue. Also on a positive note Phil didn’t bite anybody this year. I guess after prognosticating this way for 130 years he could get a bit ornery. Groundhog Day found its way to America with immigrants from Great Britain and Germany. It is said that early European Christians celebrated when a hedgehog was said to look for his shadow on Candlemas Day (February 2).

February is also Black History Month. Our libraries have created unique and comprehensive displays of materials available to you to learn and appreciate the roles many African Americans have played in advancing causes common to us all. Black History Month also known as African American History Month in America is an annual observance in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. It is celebrated in February in the United States and Canada and in
October in the United Kingdom. The first observance of Black History Month in the U.S. took place at Kent State University in February of 1970. In 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial, Black History Month was officially recognized by the U.S. government. Then president Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Of course February also is home to the Feast of Saint Valentine, celebrated on February 14. Although celebrated in many countries throughout the earth it is not a public holiday in most of them. “The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards.” Many of these traditions are in force today and have been amplified to the point where in 2015 it was estimated that $18.9 billion was spent celebrating Cupid’s target practice day. The U.S. retail Association expects each 2016 celebrant to spend $147. That’s a lot of candy!

Our busy little month is also home to the actual birthdays of 2 famous American presidents, Abraham Lincoln on February 12, and George Washington on February 22. Of course we now observe these birthdays on a common legal holiday, Presidents Day, on February 15 this year. Shouldn’t it more accurately be called February Presidents Day?

Of course this year’s February is cloaked with uber importance because it contains a February 29, commonly referred to as a leap day. Why is there a leap year? In short, leap years synchronize the calendar year with the solar year. The length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit around the sun is about 365 1/4 days, thus a leap year occurs every four years. However the actual solar year is 11 minutes less than 365 ¼ days so compensation is required. To accomplish this the leap year is omitted 3 times every 400 years. So to determine what is a leap year it is most years that can be divided by 4 except century years (1700, 1900 etc.) are not leap years unless they can be evenly divided by 400. A folk tradition that may find its roots in Ireland and Britain is that women may propose marriage to a man only in leap years. That was narrowed further over the years to only be allowed on the leap day itself, February 29.

This year we have a special opportunity to spend our leap day, February 29, at the Sebring Public Library enjoying a free musical program sponsored by the Sebring Friends of the Library. The featured artist is Chris Kahl who will bring to life and harmony his songs and stories about his native Florida. Chris has performed internationally and his song “Floridiana Hotel” was honored as one of the Top New Florida songs of 2006. The program will begin at 2PM and is expected to run to 3PM, with doors opening at 1:30PM. As previously mentioned the event is free and seating will be available until capacity is reached. As an extra treat, complimentary light refreshments will be served at the program’s conclusion. Come join us at the Sebring Library for a special way to celebrate the end of a busy month!