We are now into February and traditionally this marks the time when the season of spring is around the corner.
The 1st is St Brigit’s Day, the Gaelic festival of Là Fhèill Brìghde, or Imbolc. Linked to this is the Christian holy day of Candlemas, which takes place on the 2nd of February. And also on that day, the North American tradition of Groundhog Day takes place.
Groundhog Day is marked in the town of Punxsatawney in Pennsylvania with a ceremony involving a groundhog called Punxsatawney Phil. According to Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, if the groundhog emerges from his burrow and sees his shadow due to clear weather, he will retreat to his den and six weeks of winter will follow, but if he does not see his shadow due to cloudy weather then spring will arrive early.
In Chinese culture, the solar fortnight Rise of Spring, begins around the 3rd of February. This is important as the new year of the Chinese lunar calendar will occur at new moon following the lunar month that includes that date. This year it will take place on 12th February and will mark the beginning of the Year of the Ox.
In this part of the world, it appears that we have much more wintry weather to come in the days ahead, suggesting that, if Punxsatawney Phil were to emerge from his burrow here, he would see his shadow and retreat to his den and thus leave us with six more weeks of winter. Of course, he will be in America, but it will be interesting as always to see how the ceremony goes tomorrow.
In the meantime, while it seems that better weather is not yet on the horizon, the days are getting longer and there is the hint of better days to come. We can only hope that as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, we will be able to relax the current restrictions on our daily lives, and look forward with some hope to the rest of the year.