Happy Candlemas Day!

What’s that, you say? Feb. 2 is most commonly known today as Groundhog Day. But according to Groundhog.org, the official website of the most famous groundhog himself, Punxsutawney Phil, there’s a long history behind it.

According to the legend and lore of the origins of Groundhog Day, it traces its roots to the Christian religious holiday of Candlemas Day.

The celebration started in Christianity, as Feb. 2 was the day when Christians would take their candles to the church to have them blessed. This, they felt, would bring blessings to their household for the remaining winter.

The holiday eventually merged with thoughts to the weather and spring. An English folk song is quoted on the site that says, “If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come, Winter, have another flight; If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Go Winter, and come not again.”

Groundhog.org says this celebration of Candlemas didn’t become tied to an animal until it hit Germany. If, according to German lore, the hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day, there would be a “Second Winter” or six more weeks of bad weather. As German settlers came to what is now the United States, so too came their traditions and folklore. Since there was a lack of hedgehogs to be found in the U.S., a groundhog was the new hibernating candidate.

Groundhog Day has put the town of Punxsutawney, a Pennsylvania town small in population but not in length of name, on the map as the home of the most famous groundhog. It was the site of a Bill Murray movie called Groundhog Day, in which the acerbic lead character must relive Groundhog Day over and over until he learns life lessons and becomes a kinder and more compassionate person. An Ebenezer Scrooge of Groundhog Day, if you will.

Though so far, the cold breath of winter has been fairly mild this far, and snow storms have been few and far between, Groundhog Day is still a welcome reminder that spring is something we can hope for and look forward to.

Maybe, like Bill Murray’s character, we can use Groundhog Day as an opportunity to reflect on how we would like to improve ourselves and become more compassionate to our fellow man. A spring of the soul, if you will. For no matter how mild the winter may be, most of us look forward to the spring.

Let’s hope our friend the Groundhog does not see his shadow, and that spring is here sooner than later.

May your Candlemas be a cloudy one.