Friday, January 8, 2010


At one time, Groundhog Day was known (in Europe) as "Candlemas". At the mid-point of the year between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, during the darkest days of the year (figuratively, not literally), candles were blessed in church and lit in windows of houses, representing the returning daylight, and thought to ward off evil and disease. It was the time of year when winter food supplies were running low, cold weather still blanketed the earth (well, most of Europe anyway), but slightly longer days were finally visible and tools were being readied for spring planting. It was a time of hope.

Our Germanic ancestors had their own unique way of celebrating this special celestial crossroad. If a groundhog (or other ground dwelling animal) came out of his burrow and saw his shadow, there would be six more weeks of winter weather. If he saw no shadow, spring was just around the corner. I can't see how this prediction was beneficial to the morale of the local population, because chances were that half of the time the news was probably bad. But perhaps the weather was mostly cloudy in early February in the region where this tradition began. If that was the case, then most of the time, this tradition would have represented hope.

My son was born on February 2nd, Groundhog Day, in 1983. I was young and naieve, but that day was for me a day of new beginnings, a day full of promise for a brand new life, a day of light even as it rained outside. It was, after all, a day of hope.

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