Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhogs and Candlemas Day

So Phil saw his shadow.  Oh well.  A couple years ago he bit the guy that pulled him out - I sympathized with Phil.

"You woke me up for THIS?!"

David over at Musings Over a Pint reminded readers yesterday that Feb. 1 is St. Brigid of Ireland's Feast Day.  Groundhog Day also has roots in Christian tradition - it is also Candlemas Day.

From an article at Accuweather today:
At least as early as the 4th century A.D., Christians in Jerusalem were celebrating the ritual purification of Mary on Feb. 2, 40 days after the birth of Jesus. By the 5th century A.D., it was custom to light candles on this day. On Feb. 2, the clergy would bless candles - symbols of Christ and His association with light - and distribute them to the faithful, who placed one in each window of their home. This important Christian holiday came to be known as Candlemas Day. Not surprisingly, early Christians were well aware that Candlemas Day fell midway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The weather on this day was as important to them as it was to the ancient Celts.
American Origins
When German settlers arrived in America in the 1700s, they brought with them their Old World beliefs about Candlemas Day, including the idea that if a hibernating animal saw its shadow on Feb. 2, winter would last another six weeks. German settlers in Pennsylvania - known as the Pennsylvania Dutch - found groundhogs living in burrows all over the countryside. These winter hibernators were considered as knowledgeable about the weather as the badgers and hedgehogs of Germany. The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day was written on Feb. 4, 1841, by a Pennsylvania storekeeper named James Morris. In his diary he wrote, "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas Day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters, and if he sees his shadow, he pops back for another six-weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy, he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." There was also a popular American saying in the 1800s that went, "If the sun shines on Groundhog Day, half the fuel and half the hay." This means that if the weather is fair on Feb. 2, the second half of winter will be as long and cold as the first, so if you don't have at least half your wood and hay left, there will be lean times ahead for your family and livestock.
 So happy Candlemas Day to all!


  1. Being from the South, Groundhog's Day always seemed like a foreign concept. I mean, I've heard about it all my life. But six more weeks of Winter in south Georgia is laughable considering Winter was only 3 weeks long to begin with.

  2. @NFO - Thanks!

    @Andy - Llast time I went to concert of favorite Celtic rock band Coyote Run the lead said he told a long joke at concert in Scotland about Groundhog Day. Only to realize after it fell flat that Scotland doesn't HAVE a Groundhog Day.