Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Groundhog's Day! Happy Candlemas!

In a time-honored tradition and an excellent example of American randomness, today is the day we look to small furry mammals to predict our future.
"I'm so fluffy!"
Oh, right. It's supposed to be a groundhog, not a bunny. But for some reason, my Pinterest feed has been clogged with pins of darling bunnies all day long and I just could not resist this one. With the way she is posing with her head popping out of that burrow, I'd say she thinks she is a groundhog. Cute stuff.

Back to Groundhog's Day. This holiday has always confused me. We all know the basic premise, right? We get up early and watch a known groundhog's den to see what happens when the groundhog considers his plans for the day:
"According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day then spring will come early. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks." - Wikipedia
But wait. Wouldn't it make much more sense for a groundhog to stay out and play on a sunny day? That seems like a better indicator of an early spring. Wouldn't a cloudy day be more likely to send him running back home to jump in bed and sleep for six more weeks? When I was a kid, this illogic drove me crazy. 

In time, I came to accept that particular bit of lunacy..but only because I learned additional facts about Groundhog's Day that bothered me even more. It seems that the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania claims to have the one and only legit groundhog who can actually make an accurate prediction. They have a big ceremony with men in top hats and they jam the little furry fellow into a weird fake burrow that actually looks like a big tree stump. Before that, they stand around holding him like he is a sack of oats, rather than the finely calibrated supernatural phenomenon that they claim him to be. Poor innocent mammal.

Did I mention that the townspeople also claim that this rodent is over 120 years old?
Yep. Not kidding.
So honestly, up until today I had pretty much run out of patience with this holiday. But I just learned two new facts about Groundhog's Day that are bringing me around to see this festival in a new light.
Fact: Celebrated on February 2, Groundhog's Day falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It's the exact middle of the winter. In many traditions, it's considered the unofficial beginning of spring.
Fact: Also celebrated on February 2 is a lesser known Christian holiday called Candlemas, which is the remembrance of the day that Baby Jesus was presented at the temple for his baptism. Honored as a day of fresh starts and new beginnings, traditional Candlemas festivities include placing lit candles in your windows and serving pancakes or crepes, whose round shape and golden color are symbolic of our good ol'buddy, the sun. This link has more details and information about the origins and customs of the day.
Well, I feel sooo much better now! I still can't wrap my head around a tradition of grown men stuffing animals into confined spaces but I can totally get into the concept of Candlemas...and I can almost embrace the fact that there is a connection between the two.  

I am good with any holiday that involves fire.
That better be real maple syrup.

Happy Groundhog's Day!  Happy Candlemas! How will you celebrate?

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Let's be honest. Holidays are all about the food. Read here for more stories about what I serve on special days.

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