Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Candles and Groundhogs

Happy Candlemas Day!

Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.
It does not seek anything in return;
it asks not whether you are friend or foe.
It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.
                                                                                   Michael Strassfeld

In Anglican and Orthodox traditions Candlemas Day (Candle Mass) is also knows as The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple or The Feast of the Purification of the Virgin. Candlemas Day is seen as a day of purification, renewal and hope. At the service candles (made from beeswax) to be used in the coming year are blessed. It was often customary to bring candles from home to also be blessed. During the service candles are lit and carried in a procession celebrating Jesus being the light of the world.

So how did the groundhog get linked to this holiday? It turns out that many Europeans held similar beliefs about how Candlemas weather portends the length of winter...

If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year.

When the bear sees his shadow at Candlemas, he will crawl back into his hole for another six weeks.

When it storms and snows on Candlemas Day, Spring is not far away;
if it's bright and clear, Spring is not yet near.

The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

4 February 1841 — from a Berks County Pennsylvania storekeeper James Morris' diary …"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."

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania held its first Groundhog Day in the 1800s. The first official trek to Gobbler's Knob was made on February 2, 1887. As the story goes, Punxsutawney Phil was named after King Phillip. Prior to being called Phil, he was called Br'er Groundhog. 2011 marks Punxsutawney Phils 125 prognostication!

So what was Phil's prediction today? No shadow, Spring is near. Hooray!!!

In keeping with the themes of love, light, hope and renewal, here are a few more quotes to ponder. Enjoy!

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism
or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Martin Luther King

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King

There are two ways of spreading light;
to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. Edith Wharton

Faith is the bird that feels the light
and sings when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore

Well, I think I’ll make myself some tea, light a few candles and browse through my seed catalogs as I await spring and the awakening of my garden. Or maybe I’ll put in the Movie “Groundhog Day”.

If you want to learn more about Groundhogs check out this blog: The Back Story: Woodchuck or Groundhog? Whistlepig or Landbeaver?

Or if want a good laugh, check-out this Geico commercial featuring a pair of Woodchuks (aka Groundhogs):  Do Woodchucks Chuck Wood?

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