02 February 2014

Who needs a groundhog?

An old English rhyme associated with today's celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord - also known as Candlemas Day - runs as follows:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.
If the saying be true, the rain in Rome already this morning bodes well.

Whereas in the United States of America we look to a groundhog to learn if winter will be long or short, it is also said that on this day bears and wolves come out of their lairs to learn the length of the cold; if they return to their lairs, winter will be long.

The earliest reference to Groundhog Day in 1841 indicates that the tradition is a German one, where it is said, "The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day, and, if he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole;" if he sees his shadow winter will be long.

While this custom agrees with that of the English, the French have the opposite expectation: "If Candlemas is clear, no more winter to fear; if Candlemas is overcast, forty days winter to last."

Which one is correct?  We'll likely never know, but this year I'm banking on the English and the German tradition.

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