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Imbolc, Candlemas, and Groundhog Day…same day, different name

Imbolc, Candlemas, and Groundhog Day…same day, different name


It is time to Spring clean, gather your candles for blessings, and hope for a cloudy day! Imbolc, Candlemas, or Groundhog Day, whatever you call it, or however you celebrate; this day marks the very beginning of Spring. You really begin to notice longer days and shorter nights around this time of year.  It marks the end of a long cold winter (we hope) and the return of the warm rays of the Sun, but of course, if that annoying little groundhog sees his shadow on this day, it will have to wait for another 6 weeks.

This day of February 2nd goes by many names, however the concept is very similar. I have gathered some information on each of these, and share with you today on how they relate to each other. We start with the ancient holiday of Imbolc:


Based on a Celtic tradition, and associated with the Goddess Brigid, Imbolc is meant to mark the halfway point between Yule and Ostara in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This holiday is celebrated to honor the return of the Sun, and marks the very beginning of Spring.

In the garden, you may find early Spring flowers beginning to bloom, and budding may occur on certain trees or bushes. One of the most common explanations is that it comes from the Old Irish word (i mbolc), meaning “in the belly”, and refers to the pregnancy of ewes. The ewes are also very full with milk, and would often be the first source of the white substance for our ancestors after a long cold winter.

Celebrations include feasting, making Brigid’s crosses and dolls, divination, and Spring-cleaning. Many Pagans have and still do make up a bed or leave an offering outside made of honey and oats for the Goddess Brigid, so that she may rest and bless their home and children. Burning lamps, blessing and lighting candles and bonfires in tribute, are common ways to celebrate this night.




Christians will celebrate Candlemas to commemorate the ritual purification of Mary, also known as the Feast of Presentation; it marks the 40th day after the birth of her son Jesus and the presentation of him at the Temple.

The festival is called Candlemas because on this day, the Church would bless all of the candles for the year. The candles would represent how long and cold the winter would be.

To celebrate Candlemas, all of the candles in the home should be lit, set out an offering to thank God for the birth of His son, go to church or mass, or pick some fresh flowers. This is also the day you want to be sure your Christmas decorations are tucked away; otherwise, it is considered to bring bad luck to your home for the coming year.


Groundhog Day:

Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas, when clergy would bless and distribute candles needed for winter. An old English saying goes: “If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come winter have another flight. If Candlemas bring clouds and rain, Go winter, and come not again.”

Germans expanded on that concept by selecting the hedgehog as a means of predicting weather. Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the State.

February 2nd is halfway between the start of Winter and the official start of Spring. Since we have just gone through a few months of cold, dark nights, it is the perfect time of year to be hopeful and predict some good weather.

Even if that groundhog named Phil predicts six more weeks of winter, the days are still becoming longer, and warmer. The celebration of Imbolc (the return of the Sun), and Candlemas (the presentation of Christ), both speak of simple joy, and that every shadow gives way to the light.

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