From Western Illinois Family Magazine
For most people, February represents gloomy skies, snow storms, ice-encrusted sidewalks and streets and, of course, LOVE. Because February fourteenth is St. Valentine's Day, the favorite holiday of greeting card companies, chocolate manufacturers and, of course, sweethearts around the world.
But not me.
While I admit that I've given and received my fair share of bon-bons and heart-shaped greetings over the years, Valentine's Day is not my favorite February holiday. Instead, my high point comes right at the beginning of the month.
Ground Hog Day.
Now, why, you might ask, does an otherwise sensible chap (that's me, of course) give a hoot about a holiday that celebrates nothing more than the questionable meteorological skills of a large, sleepy rodent?
Well, that's a good question. And the answer comes down to one simple thing:
Hope for the end of winter. Hope for another spring. Because, as legend goes, when the groundhog emerges from his burrow on the big day, if he sees his shadow, he dives back in, signaling six more weeks of winter. But if he doesn't, hallelujah! He ends his winter-long nap and spring is here!
I suppose this year is a poor example of the hopes and dreams I have for the day. We have, after all, seen a summery November, a balmy December and a first week or so in January that set a few high temperature records until winter finally came a-calling midway through the month. But in most years, we've just about had it with the dark, cold days and nights of winter by the time the second month of the new year rolls around. And no matter what the weather, I suspect most folks--except, perhaps, fans of winter activities like snowmobiling, skiing and sledding--might not be too upset if spring came bounding forth once and for all.
Like many secular holidays, Groundhog Day has its roots in the traditions of the Church...in this case “Candlemas,” an old, traditional name for The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and, also, a day when priests blessed candles to be used through the year. Lyrics to an old English song said:
"If Candlemas be fair and bright / Come, Winter, have another flight / If Candlemas brings clouds and rain / Go Winter, and not come again."
A more cynical view of the Groundhog goings-on appeared in the movie "Groundhog Day," when the lead character, played by Bill Murray, explained it this way:
“They pull the little rat out. They talk to him. The rat talks back and then they tell us what's gonna happen.”
But no matter how you feel about my favorite February festival, here's the thing...whether it arrives now or in six weeks or more, even, spring will always come.
And with it will come another sweet season of light, warmth, renewal...and hope.