If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.

Yes, Groundhog Day really does have a Christian connection! Today, February 2, is not only Groundhog Day, but also the 40th day after Christmas, which is the day that Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the Temple, in keeping with the teaching in Leviticus. We learn about this in Luke’s Gospel:

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Luke 2:22-24

When Mary and Joseph arrived at the Temple with their baby, they were met by two prophets, Simeon and Anna, both of whom rejoiced to see their long-awaited Savior. Simeon, who had been promised that he would see the Messiah before he died, took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying:

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

Luke 2:29-32

Because of Simon’s reference to light, this day was celebrated in the early Church with candles, and eventually came to be known as “Candlemas.” In Europe, there developed a tradition about Candlemas and the weather, remembered in this rhyme:

If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.

This connection between Candlemas and whether or not winter could continue came over to our country and was adapted to become what we Americans know and love as good old “Groundhog Day.”

If the groundhog sees his shadow we will have six more weeks of Winter.
If he doesn’t see his shadow, we will have an early Spring.

I think that a wonderful tradition for Christians to observe on Groundhog Day would be to read and ponder the beautiful account of the Presentation of Our Lord in Luke’s Gospel. I offer it here, with warm wishes to you for not only a Happy Groundhog Day, but a blessed Candlemas and Presentation of Our Lord Day!

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:22-38

4 thoughts on “Groundhog Day’s Christian Connection

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