Monday, February 02, 2009

Candlemas and Groundhog Day

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
Candlemas is one of the Scottish quarter days in the Christian calendar and formally marks the end of the Christmas season. Formerly called by Roman Catholics the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, now called by them the Presentation of Our Lord. In Roman Catholic churches all the candles that will be needed in the church throughout the year are consecrated on this day.

The festival comes 40 days after the traditional day for celebrating the birth of Jesus in the Western church, December 25, and therefore corresponds to the day on which his mother, Mary, according to Jewish law (see Leviticus:12), should have attended a ceremony of ritual purification, as described in the Gospel of Luke 2: 22-39.

The customs of Candlemas have an ancient pre-Christian heritage: the ancient Romans had a custom of burning candles to drive away evil spirits, and the purification goddess Juno Februata, celebrated today in ancient Rome, was commemorated with candles as later applied to the Virgin Mary. Februata (also called Juno Februa) was the Roman goddess of love, marriage, and women.

It is not actually known if it was a Christian ceremony engrafted onto the Roman rite of februation, or purification, or not, because it has been a Christian ceremony for a very long time, but the parallels are striking and it is probably more than coincidence.

Groundhog Day
Candlemas is also known as 'Groundhog Day' in the United States and Canada, from the saying that the groundhog first appears from hibernation on that day. If he sees his shadow, he goes back for another six weeks – indicating six more weeks of bad weather.

European settlers brought the custom with them, mainly from Germany, but also from Czechoslovakia, England and other parts of Europe, where a badger had performed the same prognostications for centuries prior ...

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