Weather prediction day: Candles and Groundhogs

groundhog

Today is Groundhog Day in the US and Canada. In Italy, it is il giorno della Candelora, which celebrates the Purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. On this day, priests bless the candles (candele) that will be used during Mass and other religious ceremonies throughout the year.

Presentation at the temple

Presentation at the temple by Ambrogio Lorenzetti at the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Both celebrations, Groundhog Day (giorno della Marmotta) and the Candelora, have very similar sayings associated with the weather. According to Groundhog day folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.

Italian proverbs associated with the Candelora have similar predictions:

Se alla Candelora sole c’é, sette volte neve vien.

(If the sun shines on Candlemas day, it will snow seven times).

Per la santa Candelora, o che nevichi o che plora, dell’inverno siamo fuora; s’egli è sole o solicello, siamo ancora a mezzo il verno.

(For holy Candlemas, if it snows or it rains, we are out of the winter; if it’s sunny or half sunny, we are still in the middle of the winter.) or:

If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite. If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again.

The tradition of celebrating this date actually has its roots in astronomy. February 2 is a cross-quarter day, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In France it is customary to bake pancakes on this day (called la chandeleur), probably because their shape is symbolic of the solar disc.

There are also many superstitions associated with the Candelora. To light a candle dedicated to one’s saint, is supposed to bring good luck. To pay rent on Candlemas day insures freedom from debt for the year, reason why in England leases are still made out beginning with Candlemas day. However, leaving your Christmas decorations up after this day is supposed to bring bad luck. Sailors are also often reluctant to set sail on Candlemas Day, believing that any voyage begun on this day will end in disaster. Maybe this is not entirely without reason, given the frequency of severe storms in this month.

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