pick of the week: The Youth Performance Company is marking Black History Month with a tribute to Harriet Tubman and the many other brave souls who were a part of the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes and hiding places used by slaves to escape from the oppression of the South. "Oh Freedom! The Story of the Underground Railroad" introduces viewers to Tubman as well as such memorable figures as "Peg Leg" Joe, who moved secretly among the plantations teaching slaves how to escape, and Henry "Box" Brown, who hid in a box and had himself mailed to freedom. The show, sprinkled with stories and songs, opens Friday and continues through Feb. 19 at the Howard Conn Performing Arts Center (part of Plymouth Congregational Church), 1900 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. Tickets are $12-$15, with discounts for groups, at 612-623-9080 or youthperformanceco.org.

Cheat sheet: Saturday was the Chinese new year, also known as the lunar new year.

• In China, it's the beginning of a 15-day festival marking the end of winter — wishful thinking, perhaps? — and the start of spring.

• This is the year of the rooster. The traits associated with the rooster are honesty, loyalty, wisdom and fortitude. (Not original and extra crispy; those are the traits associated with the roosters at KFC.)

• One custom is to settle all your debts before the new year, the theory being that if you start the year in the red, you'll end it in the red — a pattern that's certainly familiar to many people in this country.

Day by day: Thursday is Groundhog Day, on which a handful of hearty souls stand out in the cold in Punxsutawney, Pa., waiting for a rodent to make an appearance, while smart people hunker down in the warmth of their living rooms to watch the classic Bill Murray movie.

recommended reading: Fans of the Minneapolis band Romantica have been waiting nearly a decade for them to finish their second album. You'll have to wait until Thursday's Variety to see why it took so long.

JEFF STRICKLER • jeff.strickler@startribune.com