It’s no accident that Groundhog Day and Candlemas are celebrated together, for both signify the triumph of light over darkness, spring over winter. Candlemas was originally a Celtic festival marking the “cross-quarter day,” or midpoint of the season. The Sun is halfway on its advance from the winter solstice to the spring equinox.
Candlemas is the Christianized name for Imbolc, and all of the church candles are blessed for the year. The Virgin Mary is also honored. Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore. Even our American calendar keeps the tradition of Groundhog Day, a day to predict the coming weather. The Groundhog Day tradition tells us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of bad weather. An old British rhyme instructed:
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.
We pagans see the God as an infant during the time of Imbolc, and he is nursing from the Goddess and growing in power. It is the time for banishing Winter. We gather together the greens that adorned our homes during the Yule, and then we add these greens to the Imbolc fire. We chant and dance saying “We banish Winter! We welcome Spring!”
We light candles in each window and let them burn throughout the night. It is also an appropriate time for dedicating yourself to the Pagan path and purifying your home. You can also make candles for the coming year and consecrate new ritual items.
The Christian church expanded this festival of light to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary and her presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple. Candlelit processions accompanied the feast day.Since the traditional Candlemas celebration anticipated the planting of crops, a central focus of the festivities was the forecasting of either an early spring or a lingering winter.
Sunshine on Candlemas was said to indicate the return of winter. Similarly:
“When the wind’s in the east on Candlemas Day
There it will stick till the second of May.”
A bear brought the forecast to the people of France and England, while those in Germany looked to a badger for a sign. In the 1800s, German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought their Candlemas legends with them. Finding no badgers but lots of groundhogs, or woodchucks, there, they adapted the New World species to fit the lore. Today that lore has grown into a full-blown festival, with Punxsutawney Phil presiding. For all things groundhog, visit the folks at Punxsutawney and see what Phil is predicting this year.
Sources: Almanac.com and Rose Ariadne