Among the ancient Romans, from whom our modern calendar evolved, neither January nor February existed—at first. Originally, winter—representing the dead time of the agricultural cycle—was simply “out of time,” and that was that. Folks essentially hibernated. In other words, they slept a lot, and gathered together—huddling around their ancient hearths—for the sharing of stories, songs, and folklore. Eventually, January, honoring the two-faced Janus (looking backward to the year just past and forward to the one ahead) was added. And then February, named after the februra, fur-lined strips of animal hide that were used as part of the now all-but-forgotten Roman purification rites performed each year before the onset of March.
My father, like lots of folks, used to get depressed every February. He’s try to beat it, as best he could, by having a big party. He and Mom would invite all their friends, hoot it up, and do what they could to chase the winter blues away. Nowadays science calls his well-known affliction Seasonal Affective Disorder and offers dozens of high tech and often costly remedies. I, instead, offer the original one: getting together with friends and neighbors, sharing stories and fellowship, good cheer and appreciation for the wonders of the living world—even in the midst of winter.
So engage your four-wheel-drive, put on an extra layer of clothing, and lace up your heavy-duty boots. Come to church. Reach out and beat the wintertime blues. Warm your hands and spirit by the light of our Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice. It is the perfect antidote to cold; the very heart of warmth and renewal.
Yours in faith,
Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Furrer