I've always wondered where this celebration came from. I mean really, pulling a poor creature out of hibernation on February 2nd in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is not my idea of a celebration. And I'm sure it's a rude awakening to Punxsutawney Phil as well.
Well, it was the early Germans who long relied on the hedgehog and his shadow to make an appearance to signal the end of winter, so when the German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, finding no hedgehogs, they began to watch our groundhogs, which are quite the same animal, and so the observance continued into modern times.
But what brought all of this watching for signs of winter's end?
We all hope for the end of winter, don't we? (Especially when you're up to your chin in snow, or experiencing a blizzard of the century). It's a long-held desire to try and predict spring, and this is derived from when people farmed, and needed to know when they could begin planting.
However why is this date so ingrained?
Quite simply it is a Pagan holiday. And as with all Pagan holidays, the Christians, who were wont to crush out its influences, took a date near or on a Pagan holiday and borrowed the rites to make it their own.
This time of year is actually called Imbolc by the Pagans. Or the Eve of February. The mid-way point of winter.
Christians adopted this Pagan Imbolc festival, as they did so many other holidays, and called it Candlemas. By the 5th century, a procession of lighted candles became a regular part of the Roman Catholic rite, echoing the Pagan origins which did the very same thing to symbolize the awakening of Earth.
Imbolc—or as the Irish call it i'mbolg, actually means “in the belly”, and means the first stirrings of Spring in the Womb of Mother Earth”.
Regardless of what sort of traditions we've adopted, it traditionally marks the beginning of lambing season and other fertility rites.
It's also a time of year when Wiccans look to make a change to clear out what is no longer useful in their lives and make room for the new things that need to come into their lives—a sort of new years resolution.
No matter what you call it, we, up north have got six more weeks of winter. I don't care if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not.
At this moment, the winds outside howl, and have switched to the northwest--and will usher in the deep colder temps. Closings are post up on the crawls on news stations, and it's funny to see pictures of the Kennedy Expressway in and around Chicago have so few cars on the snow-covered roads. The Blizzard of 2011 is still going strong at this early hour of 4-6 a.m. Some roads along the Wisconsin/Illinois borders are closed. They are saying if you don't have to go out, don't. Yesterday afternoon our bus company called us to tell us they were closed today. We wouldn't have even attempted to come in any way.
I did see lightning last night, but it was a distance away.
Yep. Six more weeks of winter, for sure.