This past Thursday, February 3rd, marked the halfway point of winter. This point in the year has long been a time to celebrate, and I can see why. Whether it's the Celtic celebration of Imbolc, Catholic Candlemas, or even our North American recognition that a fat, hole dwelling and hairy rodent can give us hope that better weather will come sooner than later, it all means the same thing in a lot of way. Winter will be over soon and the sun will return. With the sun comes hope, growth, rebirth, change, and the all important vitamin D.
Oddly enough, our penchant for pulling rodents out of holes halfway through winter goes back a long way. As the nature based Pagan celebrations evolved into the medieval Christian church, it was thought that a sunny Candlemas brought another 40 days of cold and snow. What a shame, because a sunny February day can be a lovely thing to behold, unlike the overcast day that signaled an early spring in the early Christian tradition. I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of why and how, as I'm not in the slightest but qualified to do so, but I can tell you, it has deep roots and almost all reach back to us wanting to begin anew .
As this ritual spread across Europe, each culture had it's own take on it. For some it meant crepes were eaten while holding coins, or the person who found the doll in the cake had to feed all on the day, or, the one that's in the local papers, a rodent will, or will not see it's shadow on said day. That particular tradition was brought over by German immigrants, and it stuck, although the original tradition also included bears.
The wider point is that, it's a lot colder here. So, midwinter here looks a bit different. I'd like to imagine that an early spring will come, but then a final brutal storm will come and bury us knee deep in wet snow and hail (a bit dramatic maybe)?
In reality, I believe the celebration of Groundhog Day here is a way to celebrate SOMETHING that connects us together and acknowledge the environment around us as it continues to shift in greater, more frightening ways.
Despite the dire possibilities that can encompass one's mind, small events like seeing a shadow, or babies being born can help connect one back to the ebbs and flows of everyday life.
Just as the season roll from one into another, the natural word will continue move along with or without us in some form. White snow gives way to brown soil then to refreshing to bright green leaves.
No matter what Wiarton Willie, Shubencadie Sam, or Punxatawney Phil said, spring will arrive and it can't be soon enough. The sheep definitely have the right idea.
Some of the ewes chilling in the afternoon, chewin' cud.