Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day is a cross-quarter day

For those readers who have been holding their breath all day to find out the decisions of the various groundhog prognosticators, it appears that there will be six more weeks of winter, except in Nova Scotia and Ontario, which are heading into springtime early this year.

Here's a link to a playful article on the tradition, written by Jan Vykydal of Canada's National Post.

The author of that article correctly points out that this modern ceremony (dating back to at least the first half of the 1800s) descends from traditions surrounding the more ancient calendar day of Candlemas, which also has its associated traditions regarding the weather on that day in connection with the arrival of spring -- as well as a badger tradition in Germany which parallels the groundhog tradition in the US and Canada.

The original importance of the date is solar -- it is one of the four "cross-quarter days" which mark the midpoints between the four stations that "quarter" the year on earth's orbit: the December and June solstices, and the March and September equinoxes. Candlemas / Groundhog Day (along with Halloween, May Day, and Lammas) is located near the actual cross-quarter days. This cross-quarter day (close to the beginning of what we call February) was celebrated as Imbolc among the ancient Celts and Druids.

For further discussion of the importance of cross-quarter days, be sure to check out this previous post about the stone markers of Mystery Hill in New Hampshire, one of which aligns with the setting sun for this month's cross-quarter day.

That ancient stone site suggests that the migration of the traditions surrounding the cross-quarter days from the "Old World" to the shores of the "New" may have started long before the birth of Punxsutawney Phil!

Also, a very special Happy Birthday to my sister, Krista!
Many happy returns of the day!