All About How Groundhog Day Came to Be

 
How Groundhog Day Came To Be!

is a tradition observed in America. However,  it had its origins in two earlier festivals and observances, the Christian observance of Candlemas Day and the pagan Celtic festival of Imbolc. Candlemas Day was celebrated in Europe on February second, which was forty days after Christmas and was held to commemorate three events:
1)  The purification of the Virgin Mary after the birth of Jesus.
2) The presentation of Jesus in the temple and
3) the meeting of Jesus and Simeon in this temple where he designated Jesus as "a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel." (Luke 2:32)

On Candlemas Day, the priests and the Pope, blessed candles and gave them to the faithful to light and put in their windows. The candles were given to symbolize Jesus, and the words of Simeon that He, Jesus was
"a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel."
(Luke 2:32)
  A procession was formed following the blessing and lighting of these candles as the people walked to mass. After they brought the candles home, lit them and placed them in their windows.

Candlemas Day, coming midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, was a perfect time to reflect on the ending and beginning of these seasons in people's minds. Naturally, there was a great desire for a prosperous harvest which always followed the Spring planting. It became a widely held superstition that on this day, February second, one could predict when Spring would arrive. If the weather was fair it would signal six more weeks of storms and winter and if not, then spring would come soon.

Germans became acquainted with Candlemas Day when the Romans conquered them. However, the Germans  added to the custom by introducing the use of the hedgehog in their predictions. They reasoned that the smart hedgehog could predict the length of winter by the length of the shadow they cast. If it was sunny, they would cast a shadow and the length of that shadow foretold the length of winter!

Imbolc, a Celtic, festival, meaning "in the belly" fell in the beginning of February and marked the beginning of Spring. When the days grew longer and the ground softened for planting and the ewes became full in the belly with their lambs it was the time for Celtic farmers to rejoice in the coming of Spring, a time of vitality, and fertility.  This festival fell about the same time as that of the feast day of the ancient fertility Mother Goddess, Brigit or Brigid held on February first.  The two became synonymous for each other and were celebrated as Imbolc to mark the beginning of Spring, a time of rebirth and renewal for the land and the feast of this Mother Goddess.

Brigit or Brigid, was the fertility Goddess of both humans and animals. She was also the Goddess of poetry and prophecy and the protector of women in childbirth. This made her essential to the Celts in the successful planting of their crops and the growth of their herds. 

Brigantia, meaning the High One or Queen was the name given by the British to their chief Goddess, the goddess of water, war, healing and prosperity.  It was believed Brigid and Brigantia were actually one and the same. Later, with the coming of Christianity this Goddess, Brigid seems to have evolved into a living mortal, St. Brigit. Although formally a Druidess she converted to Christianity and became a patron Saint of Ireland.

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