Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – January 29, 2023

Prognosticator of Prognosticators

You’re no doubt familiar with Groundhog Day on February 2. If the groundhog comes out and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter, otherwise, an early spring. What you may not realize is that this actually has roots in a much older Christian tradition. At least since the 4th century in Jerusalem, Christians have celebrated Candlemas on February 2, forty days after Christmas. St. Luke reports that in accordance with Jewish law, St. Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem forty days after his birth, to present Him in the Temple and to offer a pair of turtledoves or pigeons for Mary’s purification.

Over the centuries, as more and more of Europe became Christian, February 2 and Candlemas—being close to the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox (the first day of spring)—soon became associated with many mid-winter festivities. A common mid-winter practice was to try and predict how mild or harsh the rest of the season’s weather would be. Eventually, these predictions became standardized and repeated as short poems. The one that comes down to us in English goes like this:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

I remember something similar being said about the month of March, “in like a lion, out like a lamb,” or vise versa: that if it starts mild, it will end harshly. A lot of these folk sayings don’t exactly come true, or they’re vague enough to fit lots of different weather, but they give people something to do or even look forward to. Groundhog Day, then, was started by German immigrants in Pennsylvania in 1887, reminiscent of the Candlemas traditions they brought with them from Europe to the United States.

The name Candlemas comes from the custom of lighting and blessing candles in celebration of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple, when the old man St. Simeon takes the Infant Jesus in his arms and calls Him “a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel.” If you have any candles you want blessed, bring them by this week. We’ll be sure bless throats as well—through the intercession of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr—as we hope for an early spring.

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