Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Missed Groundhog Day?

The Super Bowl rather eclipsed (pun intended) Groundhog Day this year, which was also on Sunday, February 2.  Officially, he saw his shadow so there are 6 more weeks of winter this year.

What we call “Groundhog Day” is also known as Candlemas, a European custom in which the clergy would bless candles on Feb. 2 and people would light them in their windows to ward off the darkness of mid-winter. The weather on Candlemas was held to indicate the course of winter, as indicated by this traditional rhyme:
"If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again.”
(“Winter has another flight” is a variation that sometimes shows up in the second line instead.)

One of the traditions that surrounded Candlemas involved turning to the humble hedgehog for its weather-predicting skills. If a hedgehog, considered to be a wise animal, came out of its hole on a sunless day and didn't see its shadow, it would stay outside. But if it was a sunny day, it would see its shadow and retreat into its lair for six more weeks of winter.
The tradition migrated to America through German settlers, and the groundhog, being another hibernating animal, was substituted for the hedgehog.

In other countries, according to information from the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, “other animals have been used to foretell the weather: the badger in Germany, and the bear in France and England.”                        

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