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Still more winter ahead forecasts Punxsutawney Phil as our country observes this quirky holiday, each February 2nd.

Yet, it’s not as quirky as you might think, rooted as it was in the Roman feast of Lupercalia, celebrated in early February; then, a rural people, they sought their god’s protection from wolves ravishing their herds. Purification of their farms and lands also abounded. From these humble beginnings emerged a priesthood and sanctuary on Palatine Hill, its ritual practices enlivening participants for centuries. Without them, Emperors feared for Rome’s safety.

The Celts also revered this February festival that marked the mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

And with the spread of Christianity in the late fourth century CE came its replacement on February 2nd : the feast of Light or Candlemas celebrating the presentation of Jesus, bearer of Light, at the Jerusalem Temple and the ritual purification of Mary, forty days after the solemnity of Christmas. Worshipers brought candles from their homes to have them blessed. 

Further tweaking of Candlemas occurred among emigrants from German-speaking countries, settling in America in the 1700s. Its morphing into the realm of superstition is curious: first, the badger; then, the fox; then, the wolf—all sought the light in February’s dark; then came the groundhog.

Its earliest mention is found in the diary entry of James L. Morris on February 2, 1840. And in 1887, a Punxsutawney newspaper first printed the observance of the holiday, Groundhog Day, at Gobbler’s Knob—And Punxsutawney Phil still gets our nod every February 2nd.

An overview of these centuries of mid-winter celebrations speaks of our dependence upon light and new beginnings and hope, in whatever story form.

Available on Amazon

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