#988 – Dick Bernard: Groundhog Day: Crepes, la Chandeleur, les Marmottes. Some variations on a general theme….

Today, at least in the U.S., the latest generation of the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil out in Pennsylvania is rudely awaken from his winters nap to predict the rest of winter.
Some years ago, my Dad shared a ca 1920 story about my grandfather and a pretender to Phil in Grafton ND. A previous post tells this story. (You can read the original of that story in Chez Nous at page 442 here (scroll down to access to archives section.)
This year, some variations on the theme entered my personal sphere, as la Chandeleur, and les Marmottes, and Candlemas Day.
These revelations came to me in a round-a-bout way just a few days ago, beginning when Francois Fouquerel, modern-day French Voyageur par excellence at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji MN sent a brief e-mail to a few of us, all active in advancing the French-in-America heritage in all its manifestations:
Francois: “On the 15th Pierre talked about a social event for February and I mentioned La Chandeleur as a possible theme. It is on February 2nd so there was enough time to prepare for an event this year.
In France the tradition is to eat crêpes. From what I can find in North America the celebration has joined the German and English traditions around groundhogs (les marmottes).”
Francois provided three links, here, here and here, to give more information.
This led to a brief response from one of the correspondents, Jane: “I think that Chandeleur is connected to an ancient European and Catholic church holiday called Candlemas.”
Francois: “oui”; Pierre: “you are right”.
I had heard the word “Candlemas” before, even knew how to spell it, but that’s about all.
The next day, in an entirely different context, I had lunch with a story-telling friend, Larry, who happened to mention that his family celebrates the gift-giving part of American Christmas on Ground Hog Day – “there are fewer distractions, and besides its less expensive” he said.
It was the first time I’d ever heard of such a thing. I know Larry, of Norwegian descent, is a practicing Christian of one denomination or another, and I mentioned Candlemas day to him, thinking it must be somehow related to Christianity, but not sure. I seem to recall he’d heard of it, and said that, like Ground Hog Day, it celebrates the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and Vernal (Spring) Equinox.
Out to North Dakota to visit my Uncle in the Nursing Home, and I mentioned the story to Delvin, a retired English teacher who’s a licensed Nursing Assistant in Uncle Vince’s wing. The topic fascinated Delvin, who remembered reference to Candlemas Day in Shakespeare, I believe he said. But for him, it hadn’t gone much beyond the word, and yesterday he asked me again about it.
So, on this years Ground Hog/la Chandeleur/Candlemas Day, I give you a little definition of Candlemas. Here are many more possible links.
NBy the time you see this, you’ll have heard what Phil has to say about the rest of winter….

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