February 2 is Groundhog Day. From where does this "holiday" come?
#43982. Asked by Hamlet.. (Feb 02 04 11:09 PM)
Seems it goes back a ways further than I thought. |
The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.
According to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again
The Roman legions, during the conquest of the northern country, supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons, or Germans, who picked it up and concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal, the hedgehog, would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather, which they interpolated as the length of the "Second Winter."
Pennsylvania's earliest settlers were Germans and they found groundhogs to in profusion in many parts of the state. They determined that the groundhog, resembling the European hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.
The Germans recited:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.
[Edited to add info from reference site - McG]
In the Christian calendar it is actually Candlemass, the day Jesus was presented in the temple, as required under jewish tradition. |
It marks the mid-point of winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) and many countries celebrate February 2nd in different ways.
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