All week we have had the topic of Groundhog Day. No one seemed to have a particular, personal story about the day and I can’t honestly say that I’m surprised. Unless someone lives in a town where they have an annual, “official” groundhog, I can’t imagine why anyone would have a story, since it’s not a real holiday. I mean, it’s not exactly St. Valentine’s Day. No one goes out for Groundhog Day, no one proposes on Groundhog Day,(at least because it is Groundhog Day), no one sends cards; there are no feasts or parties…although they might where there is an “official” prognosticating groundhog. I don’t know. My husband works for American Greetings and there just MIGHT be some cards made for Groundhog Day, since they seem to have cards that cover everything. If there are Groundhog Day cards, I can guarantee you that they are joke/tongue-in-cheek. It’s not like it is a heart-felt holiday…or a holiday at all.
Or is it? Actually, Groundhog Day falls on “Candlemas”, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. It is forty days after the day we celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus. No one knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth, and the days we celebrate the milestones of His life are often set on the days of old rituals. The feast day of “The Presentation” is placed in the customary time of Jewish law, hence the fortieth day. The first male born must be presented to the temple, and his mother must undergo ritual ‘purification’ on the fortieth day after giving birth. (How bringing life into the world makes you ‘impure’ is not something I am willing to try to explain. I am lost on that one. This just coincidentally happens to be the the birthday of MY First-born son, but I digress.)
The “candles” of Candlemas originate from the days before electric lights. People took candles to be used in their homes to the church in order to have them blessed. It is a pious gesture to ‘enlighten’ and protect the home…and you needed protection with open flames in your house all the time! It’s also a play on Jesus being “The Light of the World.” And it happens to be the day halfway between the Winter Solstice,(shortest day of the year), and the Vernal Equinox, (the first of the two days of the year when night and day are of equal length).
So it all rather falls into place. The weather on Candlemas was often used to predict the weather. There are old rhymes about it; Angela , the Monday Fox, shared some. Here are more:
“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.
If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o the winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter’s gane at Yule.”
“A farmer should, on Candlemas Day,
Have half his corn and half his hay.”
“On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang adrop,
You can be sure of a good pea crop.”
This is an old saying from Germany:
” The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day,
and, if he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.”
The badger was replaced by a groundhog by German immigrants in America, and since most were Protestant, “Candlemas” fell out of use and reference.
Having nothing to do with a groundhog or badger, or even the weather, I found this little curiosity pertaining to a Candlemas tradition:
Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.
“Twelfth Night” is the night before The Epiphany, or the celebration of the coming of the Three Wise Men to the Christ Child. “Epiphany” refers to the manifestation of Jesus to the world, which the Magi represent, being from places far away, and so, the rest of the world. Old traditions and some church laws, (Anglican, for instance), hold that the days between Christmas and the Epiphany are days of celebration and feasting, so that last night, you better make the most of it! It’s rather a reverse of Mardi Gras, which began for people to feast and celebrate before the former strict fasting and solemnity of Lent
The Hound and the other Foxes all had interesting information to tell about Groundhog Day. I think between all of us, we covered everything that can possibly be said about it.
Is there anything else you can add? Please do; I’d be truly curious!