If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.
There are probably very few people in the United States who have not heard of Groundhog’s Day. But, I’ll bet there are very few who can explain what Candlemas is.
I had no idea that Groundhog’s Day was originally tied to a religious observance. It seems that the Germans brought the tradition of the observance of the purification of the Virgin Mary when they came to the United States in the 18th Century. This Jewish rite was performed on the fortieth day after giving birth which made it February 2.
“Candlemas is one of the four “cross-quarters” of the year, occurring half way between the first day of winter and the first day of spring. Traditionally, it was believed that if Candlemas was sunny, the remaining six weeks of winter would be stormy and cold. But if it rained or snowed on Candlemas, the rest of the winter would be mild.”
They combined Candlemas with the use of watching hibernating animals to predict the coming of spring. As with almost all of our traditions, this one as well can be traced back more than 1,000 years.
“In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere the official first day of Spring is almost seven weeks (46–48 days) after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or March 21. About 1,000 years ago, before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar when the date of the equinox drifted in the Julian calendar, the spring equinox fell on March 16 instead. This is exactly six weeks after February 2. The custom could have been a folk embodiment of the confusion created by the collision of two calendrical systems. Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that Spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the groundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes Spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes Winter lasts 6 more weeks until the equinox.”
The Germans originally watched for the badger. “Badgers have a rather ferocious appearance when confronted, and often make short charges at an intruder. They may hiss, growl, or snarl when fighting or cornered. Their quick movements, loose hide, muscular body, and tendency to retreat quickly into a den provide protection from most predators.” However, the groundhog is a much easier hibernating animal to grasp on Groundhog’s Day.
I’m sure all the northern states are praying that the day will be overcast so that Phil will not see his shadow. I think there are a lot of people who are anxious for the winter of 2010-2011 to be over, especially with the record snowfalls this year.
I love it when my Muse comes back to me. I get interested in such a variety of subjects. It helps pass the time on cold, overcast days as I wait for the snow and ice to hit the area tomorrow. If you like to participate in events just for fun, I think traveling some day to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania would be a fun trip. I have a very short bucket list, but seeing Phil prognosticate about the coming of spring is on it. It was kind of disheartening to find out his handlers decide before time what the verdict will be. Whatever the case, Spring will eventually be here anyway.
Happy Groundhog’s Day. Namaste. Attic Annie