Today is Groundhog Day, which begs the question--Will there be a full Winter or an early Spring?
Truthfully, I've always thought that this was a silly holiday. Groundhogs, shadows, Inner Circles and weather predictions just didn't make sense to me. However, Groundhog Day happens to be a great example of traditions intertwining across cultures and centuries.
First: Early Christians celebrated the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple 40 days after Christmas (February 2nd for those counting). It is still considered a feast day in the Catholic Church today. As Christianity spread across Europe, many Churches began blessing the candles that would be used throughout the year on February 2nd as well. The day became known as Candlemas.
February 2nd also happens to fall at the approximate halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox (in other words, the halfway point between Winter and Spring). Farmers used the weather patterns at this point to try to predict the timing of the first frost.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.
Germans also began citing the hedgehog's behavior as clues about the remainder of the winter season. When Germans immigrated to Pennsylvania, groundhogs were more prevalent than hedgehogs, so the tradition morphed once again. (Read more about the history of groundhogs and their shadows here.)
So here's the dilemma--
This year, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring. Today's weather in New Haven: sunny, (relatively) warm, and not a cloud in the sky. Winter stays. I guess we'll have to wait and see.