This week, I learned that February was once known as Solmonath, via a post on #FolkloreThursday (a great hashtag to follow if you’re into storytelling, customs and myth). Solmonath translates as the month of mud (walk across a field in February and it’s easy to understand why). The ‘Sol’ may also have referred to the increased amount of sunlight as the year progresses.
However, more importantly, Solmonath was known as the month of cakes: a tradition it would seem sensible to revive. The excess of Christmas has long passed, and the grey days could do with a little brightening in cake form. Traditionally, cakes were offered to the gods in hope of making the fields fertile but I doubt they’d begrudge a slice or two…
And cake is far from the only way to celebrate February. The Celts and Romans saw February as the start of spring. With the first flowers starting to bloom, and blue skies making the occasional appearance, I can see why.
If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, here are a few ways to celebrate the season.
Make a Cake
Get traditional with an Anglo Saxon recipe (which bears a striking resemblance to flapjacks) or just make your favourote cake. Sutton Hoo is having a Solmonath inspired bake off should you wish to share photos of your efforts.
Get into the Garden
While it’s too early to plant many things, you can prepare the garden by cutting back and clearing. However, make sure you don’t disturb hedgehogs and other wildlife, and consider leaving at least some of your garden wild to encourage birds, bees and butterflies.
Now is a good time to think about what you want your garden to provide in the year ahead. A herb garden can save you a fortune if you cook lots, and make eating on a budget much more luxurious. Growing fruit and veg can reduce your food miles (and make you resistant to any lettuce crisis). Many flowers can be used in toiletries: and a lot of these attract bees and butterflies too. A little planning now can help you save money and do some environmental good at the same time.
The Romans saw February as a time of purification, celebrating Februs Festival with cleaning – hence spring cleaning…
The Gaellic Festival of Imbolc also saw February as a time of purification – through fire – along with a time to celebrate sheep being ‘in the milk’, heralding the start of spring.
While cleaning may not seem all that celebratory, it’s a good time of year to have a clear out – and if you sell anything you don’t use, you could spend the money on something more exciting. Lighting candles can warm up a grey evening, and celebrate a return to warmer days, echoing Imbolc customs.
Alternatively, treat Februs as an excuse to have a long bath, and make your own herbal toiletries (or perhaps a Solmonath mud mask) to give it a more celebratory feel than usual. Add a mug of hot chocolate to celebrate being ‘in the milk’, and make this time of year cosier and more uplifting.