The Second Day Of The Second Month
February 1, 2010 by Audrey Kaminski
Filed under Canada, Culture by Country, Culture À la carte, Customs and Traditions, Featured, Germany, Israel, Poland, Religion, United Kingdom, United States of America
Halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox, February 2nd is an interesting day in the calendar year. The liturgical name for that date is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mother. This feast day commemorates the day when Mary, after the birth of Jesus, presented herself at the Temple to be purified from ritual uncleanliness as required by Jewish law. To this day, Hassidic and ultra-orthodox Jewish women attend ritual baths for purification after childbirth.
In the 11th century, the Catholic Church added the blessing of candles to this feast day to symbolize Christ, the Light of the World and processions with lit candles within and around the church or village took place. This became quite popular throughout Europe and eventually, February 2nd became known as Candlemas Day in England and Maria Lichtmess in Germany and many other countries added their own unique name to that day. In Poland, The Feast of Purification is called Matka Boska Gromniczna. On February 2nd, the Polish people would take special candles to church to be blessed. These decorated candles may be embossed with liturgical symbols and once blessed were called gromnice, taken from the Polish word, grom, which means thunderbolt. There’s a specific reason for the choice of this name because these blessed candles were always lit in the home as a protection against lightning strikes. The candles were also lit during illness and impending death
February 2nd is also the official end of the Christmas season in Poland. On this day all Christmas decorations are taken down and carefully stored for another year.
With the holidays over, farmers begin to look forward to the next growing season and anxiously await a break in the weather to check their fields. The housewives also look forward to tending their kitchen gardens. City dwellers, tired of the wintery weather, hope for an early spring. Everyone looks to nature, especially animal behavior, for an answer. When will winter end?
February 2nd in the United States and Canada is Groundhog Day. It’s a day filled with media attention and the best known furry prognosticator is Punxsutawney Phil from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In fact, he’s so popular that a movie named “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray was made and can be seen on television every February 2nd and often as a marathon presentation. If you are at all familiar with the movie, you can leave the room for quite a while and not miss a thing! As for Punxsutawney Phil, if he fails to see his shadow after leaving his burrow, winter will soon end. If he does see his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. However, there have been times when Phil was unwilling to leave his burrow on the 2nd of February. With cameras at the ready and reporters covering this annual story, that simply was not acceptable. So, poor Phil is unceremoniously pulled out of his sleeping quarters to make the prediction and more often than not it’s six more weeks of winter!
On February 2, in southeastern Poland, specifically in the region near Rzeszow, they watch the activity of the bear. If he leaves his den and sees frost, he tears apart his lair for spring is near. If the bear finds the weather damp and wet, he returns to his den. Winter isn’t over yet. Needless to say, if the bear doesn’t appear at all on that day, no one will pull him out!
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