My fourth grade teacher at St. Agnes school in Phoenix must have been a Broadway director wannabe. We did two big plays that year. The first was A Christmas Carol (I played the Ghost of Christmas Past, garbed in my dad’s forest green terry robe. It came to his knees, but dragged the floor past my ankles.) I don’t recall the name of the second play (for all I know, Mrs. Kase had us acting in her own magnum opus), but it was about all the characters we celebrate during the month of February. (So how is it that Punxsutawney Phil – come on, admit it, no matter how dapper he may be, he’s a rodent –  gets his own day and Web site, while two of our greatest Presidents share one day??)

Groundhog

Abe Lincoln

George Washington

Susan B. Anthony

St. Valentine

With such a tiny starring cast, I was fortunate enough to move up from the small speaking part of the GoCP to land the role of the great Suffragette herself. I remember next to nothing about the role, except for the fact that her “Day” was February 15. For my costume, we  managed to find a high-collared off-white dress at Goodwill that we dyed a pukey shade of green with the ever-handy, always popular Rit Dye.

I also remember being pretty jazzed when the SBA coins came out in 1979 (6th/7th grade) and bummed when they failed, confusing people because they looked too much like quarters.

With my role in the play, I also became a confirmed, lifelong fan of the Groundhog. Not the movie bearing his name, mind you. Sure, it was OK the first time, but not unlike Phil Connors’ experience in the movie, it only grows more and more tedious with each progressive screening.

Apparently there are other Groundhog fans … as I actually managed to track down a photo of a Groundhog stocking! You can purchase the materials (instructions for $4/$5, the linen for $15.50, charms for approx. $20/package, and thread for $20-$25) for this baby at The Silver Needle – and if you get started now, it might be done in time for Feb. 2, 2010.

Just in case you’re not a fourth grade teacher and want to know what other holidays are coming up this month, here’s a calendar for you, courtesy of The Teacher’s Corner.

February 2009

1 National Freedom Day

Langston Hughes born

Robinson Crusoe Day

First meeting of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1790

2 Bottle Cap patented

Groundhog Day

3 Elizabeth Blackwell (first female doctor) born

Elmo’s Birthday (Sesame Street character)

Vietnam War ended, 1973

4 Charles Lindbergh born, 1902

Create a Vacuum Day

Rosa Parks born, 1913

5 Weatherman’s Day

Disaster Day

Hank Aaron born, 1934

6 Babe Ruth born, 1895

Monopoly board game hit stores, 1935

7 Charles Dickens born, 1812

Laura Ingalls Wilder born, 1867

8 Boy Scouts founded, 1910

Author Jules Verne born, 1828

9 Hershey’s Chocolate founded, 1894

National Weather Service established, 1870

Toothache Day

10 Umbrella Day

Ratification of the 25th Amendment, Presidential Succession, 1967

11 Thomas Edison born, 1847

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day

National Inventors’ Day

White T-Shirt Day

12 Author Judy Blume born, 1938

Abraham Lincoln 16th President born, 1809

First Barbie Dolls for sale

13 Get a Different Name Day

First Public School established, 1635

14 Ferris Wheel Day

Valentine’s Day

15 National Gumdrop Day

16 President’s Day

King Tut’s Burial Chamber opened, 1923

17 Random Acts of Kindness Day

National P.T.A. Founder’s Day, 1897

18 Former planet, Pluto, discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, 1930

19 Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood debuted, 1968

20 John Glenn first person to orbit the Earth, 1962

Toothpick patented, 1872

Love Your Pet Day

21 Polaroid ‘Land’ Camera first introduced by Edwin Land, 1947

22 George Washington born, 1732

Be Humble Day

World Thinking Day

23 International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

U.S. Flag raised at Iwo Jima, 1945

24 Mardi Gras – always 47 days before Easter; also known as Fat Tuesday

25 Quiet Day

Artist Pierre Auguste Renoir born, 1841

26 Levi Strauss born, 1829

27 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow born, 1807

International Polar Bear Day

Author John Steinbeck born, 1902

28 Public Sleeping Day

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In the Chinese calendar, today (Jan. 26) begins the Year of the Ox, also known by its formal name, Ji Chou. 己丑

The Chinese calendar has been in continuous use since about 2600 BC, predating the Western Calendar in present use by more than 2,000 years. The Chinese calendar, begun by Emperor Huang Ti, is also a yearly one, with the start of the year based on the cycles of the moon. As a result, the beginning of the year can fluctuate from late January to mid-February. A complete cycle takes 60 years, made up of five cycles of 12 years.

The Chinese calendar names each of the 12 years after an animal. According to legend, Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him just before he transitioned out of his earthly life. Only 12 actually showed up to bid him farewell, and as a reward, he named a year after each of them, in the order they arrived to send him off. According to Chinese tradition, the animal that rules the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on their personality.

Ox Years

1913
1925
1937
1949
1961
1973
1985
1997
2009

The Sign of the Ox

The Ox is the sign of prosperity that comes through fortitude and hard work. Being born under this sign indicates a born leader who is quite dependable and possesses an innate ability to achieve great things. These people tend to be dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, those born under the Ox are unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring almost any amount of hardship without complaint.

Ox people need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, but they can be stubborn, so when they’ve set their minds on something, it can be very difficult to convince them otherwise. An Ox person has a very logical mind and a systematic approach to whatever they do, though they have tremendous imagination and an unique appreciation for beauty. These people tend to be extremely intelligent, but they speak little. When necessary, however, their words are eloquent.

People born under the influence of the Ox are kind, caring souls, logical, positive, filled with common sense and with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable, stable home for themselves and their families. Strong-minded, stubborn, individualistic, the majority are highly intelligent individuals who know their minds and don’t appreciate being told what to do.

The Ox works hard, patiently, methodically, reflectively, and intelligently. Tenacious and self-sacrificing, these people enjoy helping others, but also have very active minds.

Rarely driven by the prospect of financial gain, the Ox is not extravagant and the thought of something like piling up credit card debt makes them quite nervous. The possibility of taking a serious risk could cause the Ox sleepless nights.

Those born under the Ox tend to be truthful and sincere, so they find the idea of wheeling and dealing in a competitive world distasteful. They are welcome almost everywhere because of their honesty and patience, and are reported to have the most beautiful of faces in the zodiac. They have many friends, but are wary of new trends, even though they can, every now and again, be encouraged to try something new. People born in the year of the Ox make wonderful parents and teachers.

It is important to remember that the Ox people are sociable and relaxed when they feel secure, but occasionally a dark cloud looms over such people and they engage all the trials of the whole world and seek solutions for them.

Interesting Side Note

Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961, making him both a Leo and an Ox.

Gifts for People Born in the Year of the Ox

Because people born under the Ox tend to love stability and tradition, they are most comfortable, at peace, and happiest at home. They tend to prefer the color violet. Appealing gems and stones are jade, emerald, moss-agate, and lapis-lazuli.

Great gift ideas include kitchen accessories, gardening books, cookbooks, and bonsai trees.

Hobbies they tend to enjoy include bodybuilding, baking, gardening, music, and sewing.

Anything that enhances their home environment will likely be appreciated by people born under the Ox. If they venture away from home for a vacation, though, it’s generally to do some hiking or rock climbing.

Although I work on a laptop, I spend most of my computer time at my dining room table because that’s where my wi-fi reception is strongest. On the wall to my left is a wall calendar that I occasionally consult – but today when I looked at it, it did me no good … because it’s a 2008 calendar! Somewhere along the way, I managed to make my annual purchase of an Ireland-themed engagement calendar, but I completely forgot to get myself a new wall calendar … even though I got one for my niece!

Because everything for me is now somehow stocking related, I thought about what a great stocking stuffer calendars make. Think about it! There are so many different types of calendars … combined with so many different themes, and you have a virtually endless supply of calendars from which to choose for that someone special.

TYPES OF CALENDARS

Page-a-Day

Wall/Mini-Wall

Credit Card Size

Perpetual

Day Planner/Engagement

Checkbook/Pocket

Poster

CALENDAR THEMES

  • African American Calendars
  • Americana Calendars
  • Angel Calendars
  • Animal Calendars
  • Architecture Calendars
  • Art Calendars
  • Astrology & Zodiac Calendar
  • Beach Calendars
  • Calendars of the 50 States
  • Cartoon Character Calendars
  • Celebrity Calendars
  • Children’s Calendars
  • Christmas Calendars
  • Craft & Hobby Calendars
  • Countries of the World Calendars
  • Family Calendars
  • Flower Calendars
  • Food Calendars
  • Game & Puzzle Calendars
  • Garden Calendars
  • Gift Ideas Calendars
  • Halloween Calendars
  • Health & Fitness Calendars
  • History Calendars
  • Humor Calendars
  • Inspirational Calendars
  • Island Calendars
  • Kitchen Towel Calendars
  • Military Calendars
  • Lighthouse Calendars
  • Model & Beefcake Calendars
  • Moms’ Calendars
  • Motorcycle Calendars
  • Movie Calendars
  • Music Calendars
  • Photography Calendars
  • Porch Swing Calendars
  • Quilting Calendars
  • Religious Calendars
  • Scenic Calendars
  • Science Calendars
  • Sports Calendars
  • Teen Calendars
  • Transportation Calendars
  • Travel Calendars
  • Trivia Calendars
  • TV Show Calendars
  • Victorian Calendars
  • Vintage Advertising Calendars
  • Women’s Interests Calendars

These are just the ones I found on Calendars.com and remember seeing when I’ve been calendar shopping … but I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other themes.

In case you’re a bit of a knowledge junkie like me and were wondering about the history of calendars – where they got started, where the names of the days and months came from, why we have 12 months, etc., here are some basic facts:

  • A calendar’s main purpose is to mark the passage of time, from short durations like minutes and hours to longer intervals, measured in days, weeks, months, years, and centuries, which are essentially based on our observations of the movement of the sun, moon, and stars.
  • A day is measured by the length it takes the earth to make a single rotation. Months are measured based on the time it takes the moon to move around the earth. Years are a measure of the time it takes the earth to rotate around the sun.
  • Once upon a time, January was the 11th month.

Want to know more? There’s a great site called Calendar Origins that answers all of those questions pretty well.

There is one great advantage to waiting till after the new year starts to get your calendar if no one put one in your stocking: they’re usually anywhere from 50 percent to 75 percent off. I’m signing off right now to head to the bookstore!

UPDATE
Saturday, 3 January 2009, 1147 p.m.

I went off the grid this time (no Ireland, lighthouses, Greece, or bucolic country scenes) to purchase a butterfly-themed calendar. Though most calendars have the thumbnail images on the back, you never quite know for sure that you will love your calendar until you get it home, open it, and put it on your wall. Small suspense, to be sure … but suspense, nonetheless. Drumrollllllll, please…

My butterfly calendar is stunning. One of the nicest ones I think I’ve ever owned. Well done, Laura. And got it for a steal, too!