Yesterday was the most beautiful day. I think we hit 60 degrees. I wouldn't know because I was stuck indoors at work, clock watching, and waiting for the work day to be over so I could enjoy the warmth. Unfortunately, though, yesterday was one of my late days, and by the time I arrived home from work, it was nearly 8 pm and hard to do much of anything. I don't have my backyard anymore.
When I arrived home, I stripped down to something more comfortable, lit my white candles, home and opened the windows wide to let the air in. All day I had waited for this....my first Imbolc in my new home. After saying a prayer to Brigid, I tied a bit of cloth to the window guard for her to bless as she is said to walk the earth on Imbolc was blowing through through my window. What more perfect way to end a busy day!
Groundhog Day has become a regular institution celebrated in the United States. It was originally a cross-quarter day; that is, a day that fell midway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. However, with the advent of the Gregorian calendar, it now falls four days before the cross-quarter day. In addition, our European Celtic ancestors believed that animals had certain supernatural powers on special days that fell between the Solstice and the Equinox. Folklore indicates that when hibernating creatures came out of their winter dens too early, they were frightened by their shadow and retreated back inside for another four to six weeks.
In the United States, the groundhog has been considered a weather prophet for many years. The 2nd of February is the day when the he wakes up from its long winter's nap, and comes forth from its hole to look around and see how the spring is progressing. An old folk tale says that if a groundhog comes out of its burrow and sees its shadow, winter will last another ... If the day is cloudy and the groundhog doesn't see its shadow, there will be an early spring.
Of course, we know the groundhog's sign to be a bit of superstition or folk lore, but it sure is a lot of fun...and the subject of one of my favorite flicks. America's most famous groundhog is named Punxsutawney Phil. Legend has it that he is more than 120 years old and made his first prediction 100 years ago. It is said that he is given a special potion each summer to to help him live for seven more years.
"I'm a little groundhog, it's my day.
Wake and stretch, go out and play.
Down in my burrow, down so deep,
Time to wake, from my long winter's sleep.
Grumble, grumble, scratch, scratch,
Grunt, grunt, yawn.
I'll eat my breakfast in your front lawn.
I'm a little groundhog, it's my day.
Wake up and stretch, go out and play.'
- Author Unknown
Around the same time, in other parts of Europe, Candlemas Day was celebrated. Candlemas is one of the four cross-quarters of the year, occurring half way between the first day of winter and the first day of spring. On this day, candles were blessed by the clergy and handed out to the people to light the long winter nights.
It is believed that, when the Romans invaded the British Isles, they adopted the ancient Celtic tradition and began calling it Hedgehog Day. Then, they brought the holiday to the Germans who blended the traditions of Candlemas and Hedgehog Day with new ideas. They decided that if it were sunny on Candlemas, the hedgehog would cast a shadow. If this happened, more wintry weather was predicted. They called this 'Second Winter'.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.