Despite the dreary, yucky and gloomy weather of February, there's plenty to celebrate this month. There's Black History Month, Valentine's Day, Presidents Day and the Chinese New Year, to name a few. (OK, that's pretty much all of them.)
Here are a few fun facts to toss around during the month's festivities.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
■ George Washington Carver developed 300 derivative products from peanuts, including cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils and cosmetics.
■ Maya Angelou's autobiographical book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is the first non-fiction work by an African-American woman to make the best-seller list.
■ Who said: "The burden of being black is that you have to be superior just to be equal. But the glory of it is that, once you achieve, you have achieved, indeed"? Answer: Jesse Jackson, American civil rights leader.
■ Feb. 14 is Valentine's Day, yes, but it also is a big day in history. On that date in 1865, Alexander Graham Bell launched his "Improvement in Telegraphy," otherwise known as the telephone. On that date in 1929, Scottish bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming introduced his bacteria-fighting mold derivative, penicillin. And on that date in 1849 in New York City, photographer Matthew Brady snapped a picture of James Polk, making him the first U.S. president to be photographed.
■ Where did Cupid come from? He is the progeny of Venus, the god of love and beauty, and he is reputed to employ magical arrows to inspire feelings of love.
■ The expression "wearing your heart on your sleeve" alludes to public proclamation of your affection and stems from the medieval practice of young men and women drawing names from a bowl to discover who their valentine would be. The name would be pinned to their sleeve and worn for a week.
■ Every year, about a billion Valentine's Day cards are sent. The only holiday that sees more cards exchanged is Christmas.
■ Where did the little Xs we include after our signature to symbolize kisses come from? In medieval times, people who were unable to read or write inked a document with an X in the presence of witnesses. The X was then kissed to symbolize the sincerity of the signer. Eventually, people associated kisses with the Xs. But why an 'X?' you might ask. Some think that the pledge was made by Christians in the name of Christ. The Greek symbol for chi is an X and has long been associated with Christ. An example of this is the term 'Xmas.
■ February is Abraham Lincoln's birth month, and in his honor, we've included a Valentine connection. During Lincoln's presidential campaign in 1860, Valentine Tapley, a particularly rabid Democrat from Missouri, pledged to never shave again if Abe was elected. Tapley kept his pledge, and at his death in 1910 his beard measured 12 feet, 6 inches.
■ Sweet-talking Abe; who knew? At a dance in Springfield, Ill., newly arrived debutante Mary Todd was approached by Lincoln, who wooed her with these words: "Miss Todd, I want to dance with you the worst way."
■ By the time he became president, George Washington had only one of his own teeth left. But he had several sets of false ones made from cow's teeth, hippopotamus ivory and even human teeth.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
The Chinese New Year falls on Valentine's Day this year, but it won't next year because the Chinese New Year has no fixed date. It is celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar. One of the traditions of the Chinese New Year is that children can get away with misbehavior on this day. Parents do not want to upset their children or make them cry, because crying on New Year's Day is considered unlucky.