To confirm that the Charter of Christ embraces the cycle of life, the early Church adopted observances of the solar calendar from many different cultures. The most significant of these are obvious–Easter and Christmas–; All Saints’ Day marks the mid-point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, Lammas Day the mid-point between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox while May Day, which, like the summer solstice has no significant Christian observance, marks the middle of spring. February 2 falls between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, marking the middle of solar winter in the northern hemisphere, which Christians observe as Candlemas, celebrating the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, but most of us know it as Groundhog Day.
If like me you’re from the Deep South, groundhogs aren’t something you grew up with; there’s not even a gumbo recipe for them. They live as far south as Arkansas, most of Tennessee, north Alabama and Georgia as well, but almost nowhere in Mississippi except up around Southaven, where they’re more likely to end up barbecued than gumbo-ed. Groundhogs have a reputation of testing the weather on mid-winter day to see if they need to just barge on the couch and munch on cookies for a while longer or lose 10 pounds, buy a new bathing suit and clean out the pool. Groundhog Day is fun and quirky, but shadow or no, I’m not putting out any tomatoes until Good Friday.