In a lot of ways, I consider February the REAL start of the new year. January is more of a recovery/survival/reflection-if-you’re-lucky month. Growing up, we celebrated the full twelve days of Christmas (with my parents’ anniversary and NYE in there too), meaning that our tree went up Christmas eve and that’s when festivities formally switched from the cheerful anticipation of Advent to the unrestrained celebration of Christmas itself, culminating in the presents the three wise men brought us on Epiphany (always educational, supposedly because of the “wise” men, but really I think due to a parental desire to transition us back to school and schedules) and, for some reason, a blaring electronic robotic flashing-light-up train that my father would set up in another part of the house (their mode of transit? tapping into a basic human nostalgia for trains?).
At any rate, celebrations didn’t even begin to wind down until the 6th. Thanksgiving onward was a storm of food and parties and presents, songs and sparkling things and lit candles, furious present-making while shut away in closets, but come mid-January, the party train just sort of stops rolling and I find myself blinking and dazed and sort of done with anything involving cream or butter.
If I’ve been so foolish as to make resolutions on the 1st, they’re generally broken by the 5th (after all, still mid-Christmas!). Who honestly thinks January is a time of beginnings? In our mid-continental climate, it’s the coldest month of the year and the fact that it isn’t the darkest is pretty much just a technicality. It’s the month where we’re statistically most likely to wake up hung-over, with nothing but a half-eaten wheel of brie in the fridge. January’s far better suited to finishing off bon-bons while covering for co-workers as they vacation in warm places. Really, I think we ought to hand out gold stars just for making it through.
But February? It’s conveniently shaped for new beginnings. Our changes of succeeding with all our wonderful new resolutions is aided by starting in the shortest month of the year. Twenty-eight days to a habit, right? February is the calendrical equivalent of Oprah, or a cheesy-but-inspirational TED talk: all February wants is to empower us to become our best selves! By February, the days are a big longer. If the tree didn’t already get taken down by the fire marshall or paranoid parents, it’s curtains for it on Candlemas (paranoid parents kept only the tree-removal portion of the tradition, but one of my brothers has added back in the celebratory fire aspect as an adult). It’s still cold here, but my rational mind is getting just enough sun to convince my desperate-to-hibernate mind that spring is not a false memory implanted by aliens seeking to drive me mad. We’re within throwing distance of open windows, tomato seedlings, and shorts!
Plus February is the New Year for much of the world and one that we always celebrated. My family on the Chinese side has been in the U.S. since the late 1800s and by the late 1920s, my grandfather was working for his uncle’s restaurant in Minneapolis (where I am only half joking when I say that growing up, practically all of the locally-born Chinese-American population had its roots intertwined with the family restaurant). Despite that (or because of it), our Chinese New Year celebrations are a pretty far cry from the lengthy celebrations and community-wide festivities elsewhere.
But regardless, I wanted to capture that sense of resolution and connection to family and friends in some way with this calendar design. Envelopes serve to represent that (and classroom Valentine’s day parties!), as well as giving me the change to play stamp-designer for the USPS (Dear people-who-invented-zip-codes, call me!) and even stamp-cancellation-designer. I’ve included three stamps to represent what I most associate the month with formally: an Africa stamp for Black History Month, a goldfish for Chinese New Year, and hearts for Valentine’s Day*. The numbers on them are self-explanatory (month/year). The cancellations, which are nearly illegible, are a hometown nod (MPLS!) and the background/envelope lining pattern is inspired by fabric patterns, including a gold-on-red/orange scrap from a vintage obi that I used in a cover I made for my planners for a couple of years (and I’m just now realizing that’s probably why it felt so apropos here). The semi-transparent stencil alludes to the orderliness/self-empowerment of the month. And the calendar itself is obviously a nod to the ubiquitous Stendig.
As for the photo and how I styled it, I wanted to emphasize the narrative and symbolism. The month is about connection and writing (typewriter ball; stencils), order and direction (ruler with magnifying glass; abacus), creation (mortar and pestle, overall). And of course, I needed a nod to 2015 being the year of the sheep/ram/goat! (An aside: I didn’t have a “P” but I did have an “R” and Photoshop!)
That’s entirely too much to write about the shortest month of the year, but there it is.