Tomorrow is a Special Day!
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they (Joseph and Mary) brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22, 23b-24
In 336AD, December 25th was declared the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus. Eventually, other festivals developed, such as the Epiphany on January 6th observing the visit of the Magi, and a celebration of Jesus’ presentation at the temple forty days after his birth; the date was February 2nd.
This latter holiday went by many names depending on the region, but its most common name comes from the Germanic language: Candlemas. The name Candlemas derived from the day many churches, primarily Catholic and some Lutheran, blessed all the candles to be used throughout the year. This custom had ties to Simeon’s declaration to Mary and Joseph on that day of dedication: “…you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:31-32
Candlemas evolved during the Middle Ages, adding popular local customs. One such tradition was connected to the weather on that feast day; it could predict an early end to winter. A little rhyme even developed:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, Winter will have another fight,
If Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.Candlemas Traditions
Some Germanic and Celtic cultures had folklore connected to weather-predicting hibernating animals that eventually merged with Candlemas, and this winter festival slowly lost its Christian moorings devolving into a secular observance.
As immigrants flowed into North America in the 18th and 19th Centuries, these customs came with them. Since Pennsylvania had no badgers or hedgehogs, groundhogs had to do! On February 2nd, 1840, in a diary from a man in Morgantown, PA, there was an early mention of “Groundhog Day.” But the first documented celebration was chronicled in a newspaper in Punxsutawney, PA mentioning that the local Elks Club had a feast to celebrate Groundhogs Day on February 2nd, 1887.
Friends, once again, it is time to reclaim the Christian moorings of a secular festival: