02 February 2011

2 February - Presentation; Candlemas; Groundhog Day

If Candlemas is fair and clear
There'll be two winters in the year.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
But if it is dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.

Well, today in the smallest state, it is clouds and rain and snow and sleet - what the weather-guessers call 'a wintry mix'.  Does that mean that "Winter is gone and will not come again"?  Ha!  Don't count on it.  Keep your winter woolies out for another month at least.
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, also known as Candlemas, because candles are blessed today.

This is the 40th day of Christmas, and traditionally the day in which Our Lady fulfilled the Mosaic Law of being purified after the birth of her Son and of presenting Jesus to the service of God.  The old calenders considered the first to be the cause for celebration today, while the new Catholic calendar, following Henry VIII and his reformed church, emphasizes the latter:

"On Candelmas Daye it shall be declared that the bearynge of Candels is done in the memorie of Christe, the spirituall lyghte whom Simeon dyd prophecye, as it is redde in the Churche that daye."
30 Henry VIII
AHEM!  And for everyone who hasn't already ended their Yule-tide festivities on either the 12th or the 20th Day of Christmas - this is the LAST DAY of CHRISTMAS!

This is it!

It is over!

The decorations should have been put away yesterday. [Although those people whose outside lights are still covered by the major amounts of snow we have received since St. Stephen's Day have a pass for now.]
The candles blessed today would be carried in processions and then taken home, where they would be lit as protection for the house and its occupants against storms and lightning, against the snares of the devil and things that go bump in the night, and as protection for the crops against destruction by hail or frost.

It is from this episode in Our Lord's life that we have the beautiful prayer of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis, which we say at the completion of the day:

Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord,
In peace, according to Thy word;
For mine own eyes have seen Thy salvation,
Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all people,
A light to reveal Thee to the nations,
And the glory of Thy people, Israel.

There was a tradition once of making several large goose-pies on St. Stephen's Day (December 26), all of which were given away to the needy - except for one pie which was carefully put away and saved to be eaten today. [Just thinking about a 4-1/2 week-old meat pie is wreaking havoc with my digestion]

And of course, today is Groundhog Day.

If the ground hog sees his shadow on February second, there will be six more weeks of cold weather.
It is between eleven and one o'clock on February second that the ground hog's shadow is significant.

Well, up here the groundhog has always managed to see his shadow, whether the sun is out or not, because winter lasts through mid-April and sometimes to mid-May (forget three months to a season.  Winter lasts six months almost to the day!)

And since I am less-than-fond of Puxatawny Phil and his numerous easily-startled-by-shadows brethren, here is a recipe contributed by Mrs. Ennis Ownby, which I found in a wonderful cookbook called Mountain Makin's in the Smokies (you can buy a copy here), published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association:

"Dress and cut it up.  Put in pot, then bring to boil.  Break up spicewood branches, and put in pot with meat.  Boil until the meat is tender.  Remove; then salt and pepper; then roll in flour; put in 1/2 cup shortening, preferably bacon grease.  Then put in oven and bake until it is brown."

Read the recipe outside of a groundhog hole.  It might induce the occupant to a proper frame of mind.
  "Shadow?  What shadow?"