Ground Hog Day

Everybody knows that February 2 is Groundhog Day, but not everyone knows that Groundhog Day began as a Christian Holy Day. According to Western religious tradition, Groundhog Day, which is more formally known as Candlemas Day, is the day of the Feast of the Purification of Mary. According to Jewish law, a new mother is unclean for 14 days after giving birth. On the 15th day after giving birth, the new mother would go to the local priest. The priest would perform a special ceremony that would cleanse the new mother. After giving birth to Jesus, Mary had to present herself to the priest to be purified.

The day that Mary, the mother of Jesus was cleansed became known as Candlemas sometime in the eleventh century. The word Candlemas means the blessing of candles and was first celebarted in Europe where the celebration of Candlemas was combined with other pagan candlelight ceremonies that were intended to invigorate the fields before planting.

According to the Dutch Folklore Center, Franklin and Marshall College, the earliest reference to Groundhog Day, as it is recognized today, is on February 4, 1841. A storekeeper at Morgantown, Pennsylvania wrote; Last Tuesday, ... 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.

Punxsutawnet Phil is probably the most famous of all groundhogs. He lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where he is greeted every year with pomp and circumstance as the town awaits his weather prediction. According to the President of the Punxsutawnet Groundhog Club, Punxsutawnet Phil has never been wrong in his predictions. Other less known weather prognosticators are Pothole Pete in New York and Chipper in Brookfield, Illinois.

Here are a few Candlemas weather rhymes

As far as the sun shines out on Candlemas Day; so far will snow blow in before May.

As far as the snow blows in on Candlemas Day; so far will the sun shine out before May.

If Candlemas is fair and clear, There'll be two winters in the year.