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Front Porch: Holidays may be over, but January has its little joys

I love the month of January – though, except for die-hard snow-sport lovers, I suspect I’m rather alone in that affection.

Most people do not hold the month in high esteem. There’s that big letdown after the big buildup to the holidays. There are the extra 10 pounds on the scale courtesy of those holiday excesses. There are the bills coming in from overspending (see aforementioned holidays). And there’s the general sigh at returning to work/school in the early morning hours when it’s still dark out and coming home in the afternoon/evening only to find it dark once again.

Add to that a recent report from mood experts (whoever they may be) and those who analyze social media communications, Jan. 6 is dubbed the most depressing day of the year, thanks mostly to post-holiday syndrome and the loosening grip on those well-intended New Year’s resolutions. Legal experts weighed in, declaring this date, which fell on a Monday this year, as “Divorce Monday,” the busiest time of year for couples to seek marriage counseling. And if that isn’t enough, Jan. 6 also turns out to be one of the highest days of drinking in the nation.

For a bonus, January 2014 also gave us that lovely little polar vortex, when on Jan. 7 all 50 states saw freezing temperatures at some point. It even got below freezing in Hawaii.

I can see why people may not love January.

But some of us do. Full disclosure here, January is my birth month, so I do have a bias – although a birthday right after the holidays is kind of inconvenient and something for which it’s hard to gin up much celebratory enthusiasm. Still, it’s mine, and I embrace it. But I think the month is kind of cool anyhow.

I know there is the mid-January observation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, but other than that, it’s a kind of long month with nothing special going on. No one’s in a party mood and the weather kind of keeps you indoors – the perfect time to put your house in order. Literally. I am busy cleaning out closets, taking unused items to Goodwill and Value Village, finding tucked-away things whose locations I’d been wondering about for months and generally getting a grip on so many of those household tasks that have been put off for too long.

Home organization may not be your thing, but consider this the perfect time to tackle whatever your version of it might be. I mean, except for your regular work and family responsibilities, what else is there to distract you?

Besides, it’s a month filled with little-known fun things. In truth, every month is, but I delight in those from “my” month. Perhaps in recognition of what has just transpired and the predicted depressing days to come, Jan. 3 is celebrated as Festival of Sleep Day. The origins of this observation are obscure, but it is so recognized nevertheless. Its close cousin is National Nothing Day, an un-event celebrated annually on Jan. 16. Created in 1973 by newspaperman Harold Putnam Coffin, it is a day set aside for absolutely nothing.

Squirrel Appreciation Day is Jan. 21, created by a wildlife rehabilitator affiliated with the Western North Carolina Nature Center in order to help our little bushy-tailed friends get through the winter. The idea is to put out a little extra food and learn something new about squirrels. I mean, why not?

It’s also an interesting month weatherwise, and for more than just cold and snow. Antarctica’s highest temperature ever (59 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded Jan. 5, 1974. The highest rainfall amount in a 24-hour period was 71.9 inches on La Reunion, an island in the southwest Indian Ocean, during a tropical cyclone Jan. 8, 1968.

And lots of interesting people were born in January. It’s fun to put them into unlikely groups and imagine the conversations that might emerge. (Note: It’s a long month, and the mind wanders looking for things to occupy itself with.) Wouldn’t you like to eavesdrop on a conversation among January birthday boys Bill Maher, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan? Or how about the grouping of Maureen Dowd, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern?

Personally, I’d love to have or have had a conversation with J.D. Salinger, Carl Sandburg, George Washington Carver, Khalil Gibran, Wayne Gretzky, Stephen Hawking, Robert E. Lee, Michelle Obama, Jackie Robinson, Chief Justice John Roberts, Elvis Presley, Thomas Paine, Betsy Ross and Daniel Webster.

And while I note many of the laudables, it would only be honest to mention that the month owns its share of stinkers, too. P.W. Botha, Benedict Arnold, Hermann Goring and Jerry Sandusky. No month is perfect.

For those of you who are not won over to the joys of January, take heart in this statistic. The mood experts note that there are five happiest days of the year. We just had three of them – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day. Another one is the first day of summer.

And the other is Valentine’s Day – which is a short five weeks away. Just hold on a little longer.