Groundhog Day and Rituals of Hope
Light your candles tonight for the Light is coming.
Christmas decorations come down in our house after Epiphany on January 6th, but the candles in our windows remain through February 2nd. Most may know February 2nd as Groundhog Day yet in the Christian tradition, it is Candlemas.
Before Candlemas, ancient religions recognized this time as the midpoint of Winter and celebrated rituals in anticipation of the return of the light. These ancient peoples celebrated the bear leaving his den to see if Spring was in the air.
Candlemas replaced the “Cult of the Bear” rituals, becoming one of the oldest Christian festivals, originating in 4th century Jerusalem. Forty days after Christmas, this Feast of the Presentation, celebrates Jesus being presented at the temple 40 days after his birth.
In Luke 2, we read of the holy family meeting an old man and woman in the temple. Simeon and Anna, faithful to God, recognized Jesus as the "light for revelation." They had been waiting and praying, hoping to witness the arrival of the Light. Upon seeing him, they gave thanks for this Light that had now come into the world.
Rhythms of nature and rituals of ancient peoples combined when German Christians used to say if badgers saw their shadow on Candlemas Day there would be more Winter. Sound familiar? As Germans moved to the United States, the badger was replaced by the groundhog.
Whether literal or metaphorical, we all long for the return of the light after a long, dark Winter. The story of Jesus and these age-old celebrations remind us that, sooner or later, the Light will come again.
May you light your candle in hope of this (& your) resurrection.
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.