For this double celebration, a sketch, and the first verse of a poem by Lynn Ungar.
Celebrate this unlikely oracle,
this ball of fat and fur,
whom we so mysteriously endow
with the power to predict spring.
Let’s hear it for the improbable heroes who,
frightened at their own shadows,
nonetheless unwittingly work miracles.
Why shouldn’t we believe
this peculiar rodent holds power
over sun and seasons in his stubby paw?
Who says that God is all grandeur and glory?
—from “Groundhog Day” by Lynn Ungar
A happy sequence of events, all signifying that we are now halfway through the winter: The First of February, Groundhog Day/Candlemas, and Setsubun. This means that, although there are still heaps of snow along every sidewalk and intersection, we can celebrate with crêpes, candle-making, watching one of our favorite movies, eating sushi rolls, and tossing beans into the garden. Happy February! Wishing you much joy and no demons!
I’m afraid this is where our family will be found tonight—snuggled up in our cozy burrow observing what has come to be an annual tradition.
For another picture of the groundhog at home, please see GroundhogCandlemas.
This is the day on which, according to tradition, the groundhog makes all his candles for the coming year. (When he has finished, he will stick his nose outside the burrow to check the weather.)
For another picture of the groundhog at home, please see Light Those Fires.
Today we celebrate two festivals: Groundhog Day, at which time we learn, as the groundhog emerges from his burrow, whether or not the end of winter is near; and Candlemas, when, in the Christian church, the infant Jesus was presented for the first time in the Temple. Each is a festival of light in a season of darkness, ever-necessary even in a world of perpetual artificial illumination. (Probably more so.)
On this day, some people make the candles they will then store and use the following winter. Others make crêpes, a lovely round golden symbol of the coming sunshine (and if you can flip your crêpe without dropping it, you will supposedly have luck in the coming year). Some spend the evening entirely by candlelight, which really makes you think about the meaning of darkness, and the legacy of Thomas Edison. And some gather around the tv screen to watch Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, and laugh and feel hopeful all over again. In our family we have done each of the above. But not all the same year. Happy February 2nd, all.