FEBRUARY: Love, heart health, African-American history and fledgling spring

Mount Rushmore on a sunny day

February welcomes Presidents’ Day. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FEBRUARY 2015—In the blustery cold days of February, millions of families across the Northern Hemisphere dream of spring. One of the first signs of this hope is Groundhog Day: for centuries, cultures have turned to woodland creatures for indications of an early springtime. Another nature-based tradition comes from Israel—the Jewish holiday of Tu Bi’Shvat. ReadTheSpirit always covers that minor festival, but this year we have three Tu Bi’Shvat articles:

Three levels of floors filled with books, libraryHistorically, the many contributions of African-Americans are highlighted during February, as the United States and Canada mark Black History Month. Then, the third Monday of February brings the American Presidents’ Day. Awareness of eating disorders is the focus of February in the UK, Canada and parts of the U.S., and dental health of American children takes the stage this month.

Looking for something fun to do this month? Make a treat for Bake for Family Fun Month; catch up on some reading during Library Lovers’ Month; and help birds when food is scarce to mark National Bird Feeding Month.

Check out these month-long highlights …

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

A national recognition of the contributions and achievements of African-Americans in U.S. history and culture is the essence of Black History Month, known alternatively as National African American History Month. What began as Black History Week in 1926 became Black History Month several decades later, and each year since 1976, the U.S. President has officially designated the month of February as such. (History.com and Wikipedia have more.) Outside of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom also designate a month for black history. (Note: Canada observes the month of February, and the UK reserves October.) This year, PBS is premiering Celebrating Black Americana as part of the Antiques Roadshow beginning this month, and two new documentaries will tell the story of African-American photographers. Nationally, the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join to recognize the generations of African Americans who faced hardship and adversity while working together to achieve full citizen rights. (Learn more here.)

Drawing of red heart with black outlineAMERICAN HEART MONTH

Cardiovascular disease—that is, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure—is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States, and this month, Americans are encouraged to learn more and decrease their risk. Cardiovascular disease is also the top cause of disability in the United States, yet it is highly preventable—by some estimates, up to 80 percent. The best way to prevent heart disease is to adopt a healthier lifestyle, with a diet high in fiber, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and a moderate amount of physical activity. (Learn more from CDC.gov.) Through diet and exercise alone, other factors of cardiovascular disease—such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes—can also be controlled. So grab a friend or family member, vow to practice healthier habits, and encourage each other along the way! Women are urged to dress in red on Feb. 6, to raise awareness of heart disease through the campaign Go Red For Women.

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