As we enter the month of February for many of us our thoughts turn towards warmer weather and planning in the hope for an early spring. This happens to be Ground Hog day here in Pennsylvania and many a person will wait with great anticipation for Punxsutawney Phil to appear. Popularized by the movie Groundhog Day in 1993, this annual tradition has origins that go back much farther than one might think.
Punxsutawney Phil and his handler
(image: “Phil supports Candelora (Venice version)” by “Alessandro M.” Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY2.0). Accessed 1 February 2018. https://www.flickr.com/photos/7829129@N08/3247867168/
Oral tradition places the origin of the ceremony on German immigrants who encountered an abundance of groundhogs upon their arrival in Pennsylvania. The belief that if this ground boring animal came out of his hole and saw his shadow, he’d scurry back inside as an indicator of six more weeks of winter. How did it come to be that a rodent would be considered an accurate predictor of the weather? It actually has origins in Europe and was likely a carryover from religious teachings.
February 2nd corresponds with the forty-day period after Mary gave birth on December 25th in the Christian church, known as the Purification of the Virgin. Women had to wait forty days after childbirth before entering a church or Temple again due to “uncleanliness”. Eastern Orthodox Christian churches continue to practice this belief today, and all Christian churches schedule the Christening for forty days after the birth in keeping with this ancient purification practice. Observed in Catholicism, and by Anglicans and Lutherans, the Feast of the Purification is otherwise known as Candlemas. The Church blesses all the lights to be used in its ceremonies throughout the year, since it was at Christ’s Presentation at the Temple that Simeon