Putting a Little Light on Groundhog Day

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so we’re in for six more weeks of winter. But before you watch the Bill Murray movie again and wait for spring to officially begin, here's a little history about how Groundhog Day got started.

According to the Old Farmers Almanac, the custom starts in the ancient Celtic calendar, which was divided into quarter days and cross-quarter days. Quarter days--March 25, June 24, September 29, and December 25--marked the four seasons, major divisions in the year. Cross quarter days marked the halfway point of a season.

February 2 marked Candlemas, from the candles lit that day in churches to celebrate the presentation of the Christ Child in the temple of Jerusalem. It was also called Brigantia for the Celtic female deity of light, calling attention to the Sun's being halfway on its advance from the winter solstice (December 25, Christmas) to the spring equinox March 25, Lady Day, when laborers were hired.
For Candlemas, a bright and sunny day was considered bad luck, as that meant snow and frost would continue until Lady Day. But if it was cloudy and dark, warmth and rain would thaw out the fields and have them ready for planting. Groundhog Day is the modern celebration of that belief . For more visit http://www.almanac.com/content/quarter-days-and-cross-quarter-days