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Candles in Lourdes

Candles in Lourdes (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

There are a variety of celebrations that mark the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I can imagine that winter can be very long in some parts of the world and throwing a celebration of sorts halfway is probably a good idea.

Here we celebrate Groundhog Day which is the day when the designated groundhog will predict the weather for us —kind of makes you wonder how they get these holidays, doesn’t it? Traditionally, about halfway through winter, hibernating animals would poke their heads out to determine what was going on outside — and depending upon what they observed they would head back in for six more weeks of hibernation.

It is also the celebration of Candlemas which is marks the purification of Mary, mother of Jesus and the presentation of Jesus to the temple for the first time. According to custom, after birth Jewish women were not permitted back to temple for a period of 40 days — they were considered unpure. February 2nd marks the end of the 40 day period from Christmas.

It is also a day that candles are lit to symbolize the returning of the strength of the sun, the coming of spring and to banish evil spirits. This became the day that all the candles to be used in the church for the coming year were blessed during mass, hence Candle-mass.

In Ireland, Scotland and Wales this time of the year is the celebration of Imbolc which is the celebration of the time that the ewe’s milk starts flowing recognizing the beginning of lambs’ births– usually associated with spring.

In France it is known as La Chadeleur or Crepe Day. The French celebrate Candlemas by not only lighting candles but also by making crepes. A French tradition is to hold a coin in your writing hand and simultaneously hold the crepe pan with your other hand and try to flip the crepe successfully. If you manage to catch your crepe, it predicts prosperity for your family in the year to come.

There are several Candlemas sayings which revolve around the prediction of the weather….

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

If Candlemas be dry and fair
The half o winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemas be wet and foul
The half o winter’s gane at Yule.

For the farmers:
Just half your wood and half your hay
Should be remaining on Candlemas Day

 

Replaces :Image:Groundhog Standing1.jpg, which...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is the day that we rely upon an animal to advise us on our weather forecast. One has to wonder where this stuff comes from? Here we are a civilization that can’t tear itself away from its technology, electronics and obsession with gadgetry and we are relying upon a groundhog or woodchuck to prognosticate as to our weather situation. Don’t we have gadgets and gizmos to do that? Don’t we have degree-bearing meteorologists who are supposed to tell us what the weather will be like going forward? And yet, here we are in 2012 relying on whether or not a groundhog sees its shadow to tell us if we can expect an early spring or hunker down for six more weeks of winter.

I personally have no problem listening to a groundhog…after all how wrong can he or she be? The weather forecasters don’t get it right a lot of the time anyway, so let’s give the old groundhog a try.

Personally, from the groundhog’s point of view, I am sure that the poor creature is wondering what the hell all of these people are doing outside of its burrow. It’s probably also wondering if they could please keep down the noise, because they are disturbing the poor creature’s rest.

Punxsutawney Phil, the world re-known groundhog from Pennsylvania around which the Bill Murray movie centered is predicting six more weeks of winter. His competitors around the country, well some of them say differently.

In any event, it is entertaining as is the movie.

Whether you have more winter or you have an early spring headed your way…….Happy Groundhog Day!

 

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Groundhog Day is celebrated today and so is Candlemas Day. Candlemas Day originated from the Celtic holiday of “cross-over” or festival of light to signify and mark the day that lands midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Candlemas Day was expanded by the Christians to celebrate the purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple for the first time. It is 40 days after Christmas, or February 2nd.

Groundhog Day is the day where we determine, according to the good ol’ groundhog or woodchuck if spring will come early or there will be six more weeks of winter. No matter what Phil or any other friendly neighborhood groundhog may have to say about it, a look out the window pretty much across most of the country would have you believe that winter is still here. Sure, Phil says spring is coming early – but Phil I have news for you – we’re deep in the heart of winter up here and loving all the snow. No matter what you say Phil, there is still six weeks until the “official” first day of spring so in the words of Bon Jovi … “we’re halfway there…..”

Our storm dropped in and about a foot here for us, but essentially when you’re expecting two feet which is what they originally predicted, it’s rather anti-climatic. Boys were happy since they had a much-coveted snow day, but everyone’s back to school tomorrow.

Here’s some pictures of life outside our door this afternoon.

The tops of our Adirondack chairs peeking from the snow

Front porch

Marmota monax
Image via Wikipedia

Here in Vermont they do not celebrate “Groundhog” Day, rather we celebrate Woodchuck Day or at least so I am told. Are they one in the same? Yes. Why the different name? Come on, we try to be different here.

The history of Woodchuck Day or Groundhog Day surrounds the Christian holiday of Candlemas.  Candlemas is the Christian festival of lights, marking the day halfway between the shortest day of the year and the spring equinox. It is the day in the Catholic church that the candles used for the rest of the year are blessed. Jewish tradition was that a woman who gave birth was secluded for 40 days. It is also known as the purification of Mary or the Presentation of Jesus to the Temple  – since traditionally both of these events take place 40 days after a woman gives birth.

Weather lore has it that German tradition indicated that if a burrowing animal saw its shadow on Candlemas Day, there would be six more weeks of winter. Here in Vermont I think that they must shine spotlights on the poor old woodchuck so he has no alternative but to see his shadow, since no one here is ready to give up the snow and winter…just yet.

There are a slew of sayings surrounding the association between the weather and Candlemas. According to the Stormfax website some of the sayings are:

According to the old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

From Scotland:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be two winters in the year.

From Germany:

For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until May.
For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,
So far will the sun shine before May.

And from America:

If the sun shines on Groundhog Day;
Half the fuel and half the hay.

The sun is shining here in Vermont this morning – and I am guessing there are a lot of happy people out there right about now.

The groundhog or woodchuck that resides in Nova Scotia has seen its shadow so it’s safe to say that winter is here to stay… for a while at least.

The famous Punxsutawny Phil confirmed that winter is here for a while longer.

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As I write this, it’s a brand new month – February and what’s not to like about a month that espouses flowers and chocolate as well as presents that are shiny and that four letter word – L O V E. It’s snowing outside our window, although there is no snow in the forecast and nothing on the radar which is another indication of how unique it is here where we live…our own personal weather patterns.

February is a pretty neat month – especially this year when the Winter Olympics start this Friday (Can you tell that we are big Winter Olympics fans around the T’s house?), Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, February school vacation in addition to your Groundhog Day and Valentine’s Day.

February 1, 1790 was the first day that the United States Supreme Court convened for the first time ever and it is the day that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police came into existence. (Go Dudley Doright!)

February is American Heart Month, a great excuse to wear red to support a good cause.

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