Facts of February 2003

Chinese New Year - February 1st, 2003

The Chinese New Year begins on a different day every year because of the Chinese calendar.

The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (7 years out of a 19-year cycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.

This year, 2003, is the year of the Goat (black sheep).

Groundhog Day

The legend of Groundhog Day is based on an old Scottish couplet: "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year."

Every February 2nd, people gather at Gobbler's Knob, a wooded knoll just outside of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Residents contend that the groundhog has never been wrong.

The ceremony in Punxsutawney was held in secret until 1966, and only Phil's prediction was revealed to the public. Since then, Phil's fearless forecast has been a national media event.

The groundhog comes out of his electrically heated burrow, looks for his shadow and utters his prediction to a Groundhog Club representative in "groundhogese." The representative then translates the prediction for the general public.

If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, it means spring is just around the corner.

Approximately 90% of the time, Phil sees his shadow. Phil started making predictions in 1887 and has become an American institution.

In Canada, Wiarton Willie is the groundhog's name and the ceremony is held in Wiarton, Ontario.

Amethyst - The Birthstone of February

Amethyst is the birthstone for the month of February. It is a purple quartz and is said to represent "not drunken" and long considered a stone of sobriety.

Amethyst is a purple colour gemstone. The legend of the origin of amethyst comes from Greek myths. Dionysius, the god of intoxication, was angered one day by an insult from a mere mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. Diana turned Amethyst into a stature of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysius wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god's tears stained the quartz purple resulting in the colour of the gem.