Monday, February 1, 2010

A Day of Renewal and Hope

Tomorrow is more commonly known as Groundhog Day but it is also The Feast of Candlemas, a celebration of light, renewal and hope. Whichever you choose to celebrate, and whatever this month may bring, I wish you the warmth of a winter fire and the beauty of flickering candlelight.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.

By Hal Borland

Tomorrow brings that secular occasion known as Groundhog Day, when an almost incredible amount of guesswork, speculation, superstition, and error is taken for divination. The groundhog, or woodchuck, is supposed to rouse from hibernation, emerge from its den, and decide about the weather for the next six weeks. If the sun shines and the woodchuck sees its shadow it will return to its bed and winter will continue for another six weeks. If it is cloudy and the woodchuck sees no shadow it will end its sleep and winter will be at an end.

That is the old belief that reaches back to primitive times. Early tribesman credited various animals with the ability to forecast weather. The Egyptians relied on bears. Europeans turned to wolves for prophecies. In England they put their faith in otters and badgers. Early English colonists in America, never skilled in identification, mistook woodchucks for badgers, which often were called groundhogs in England. The badger was the Candlemas forecaster in England, so the American marmot inherited the prophet's mantle. And just to round out the tangle of identities, the name "woodchuck" came from the Algonquin "wejac," which means fisher, a cousin of the weasel.

And that is the way the old Candlemas legend was credited to a misnamed creature that usually slept right through the event. Not even countryman put stock in the old belief, anyway. But in upper New England there is a wry twist to it. Folks up there hope for sunshine so the groundhog can see its shadow. That, they say, means there will be only six more weeks of winter.

This is one year we can echo their hope. May the sun shine bright on Groundhog Day.

More interesting information on the Feast of Candlemas

All  theYear Round by Charles Dickens

Traditions on Candlemas Day from around the world:
  • In Ireland, Feb. 2 was also the festival day of Brigid, known in various sources as the pagan goddess of fertility, grain and fire. Candles were lit on her festival day.
  • In some cultures, children brought money to school so their teacher could buy treats. The boy or girl bringing the most money was crowned king or queen of Candlemas.
  • In Luxembourg, children sang and carried candles door-to-door. They were treated with candy at the houses where they stopped.
  • Any Christmas decorations not taken down on Epiphany were to be left up until Candlemas. At that time, all decoration had to be taken down.

Candlemas is a celebration of light, the day of candles, but in many parts of the world it is thought of by both young and old as pancake day!

For the children. Help the groundhog find his shadow:


TheNote said...

Pancake Day!!!!
That works for me.
Love & Love,

Sue said...

thanks for all of your research!! glad you posted it.

Conrad Bladey (Peasant) said...

St. Brigid of Kildare=
Feast Day Feb.1

Candlemass is also the feast of the purification of the virgin and the presentation of Jesus in the temple
Here is my web page on Brigid

A weak version of the story is here