Groundhog day question: calendar- season shift?

Cecil has done a couple of columns about Groundhog’s Day, but neither answers the question I have: How could there NOT be six more weeks of winter following February 2? When in recorded history did the snow melt and the grass start growing in early February? I was wondering if this had something to do with the Julian calendar, or maybe the precession of the equinoxes; someone once told me that Christmas (Dec 25) was originally in the middle of winter, timed to give people a break from the dreariness of winter. Have the seasons shifted relative to the calendar that much?

Surely this depends on where you live. I am sure there are plenty of places where spring springs around mid March.

I believe mid-winter is the solstice December 21st or thereabouts, just as mid-summer is the summer solstice in June, not July & August.

We’ve had weather in the 30s and 40s during January here, with a couple threats of snow. It’'s actually expected to get up into the 60s or low 70s next week according to the NWS forecast for this area – an early beginning to “spring” in the sense of “It feels like …” So, yes, in some areas a clear, cold Candlemas suggests a likely extension of wintry weather, while a cloudy warmer one might herald the beginning of spring-like weather

For what it’s worth, Imbolc/Candlemas/Groundhog Day is one of the “cross-quarter days”, the four days dead center between a given solstice/equinox and the equinox/solstice following 90+ days later. All Saint’s Day (and its Eve) is another; May Day is the third.

If you want to drag in the Gregorian calendar reform you allude to, in 1582 solstices and equinoxes on the Julian calendar were about 10 days earlier than church observations in the early 4th century (325 AD), hence the removal of 10 days in 1582 along with the adoption of a more precise leap year rule, to put them back where they “belonged” (around the 21st of the applicable months). So, yeah, dates were that much further along into winter. By the time England adopted the reform (1752), they were another day back.

However, this probably doesn’t have anything to do with the current groundhog day date, although the Wiki article lists something like it under “alternative origins”. It’s more likely that it’s simply close to Candlemas, and “cross-quarter” on the modern calendar, which had long been adopted by MOST of the Western world in 1841, listed as possibly the first attested reference to groundhog day (yeah, a few places like Russia were still holding out):

Where you are, yes. Here in the civilized world (:p), The solstices mark the beginnings of their respective seasons.

I envy you greatly! shakes fist

The six weeks of winter is the worst case scenario. The alternative is an early spring. However, since six weeks from February 2 is March 15, it would seem to be an early spring either way!

You made me look up what the fourth one was, the one between summer solstice and autumn equinox; it would be either Lughnasadh, or Lammas, observed either on August 1, or variably between August 3-10.

The difference in how the seasons are marked is easily explainable, once you realize what’s important in each country. In the British Isles, temperatures are mild year-round, due to the Gulf Stream: Winter is still colder than summer, of course, but not by as much of a margin as in the US. So in the Isles, it’s not as important to mark the seasons according to the temperature. However, the Isles are also significantly further north than most of the US (other than Alaska), so they see a greater variation in the amount of daylight than we do. So it makes considerably more sense to mark the seasons by how much daylight there is. By this standard, it makes sense to call the time when there’s the least daylight “midwinter”, and the time when there’s most daylight “midsummer”.

Here in Montana, it’s a little more complicated. We typically get the first day of spring some time in early March, or so. On the other hand, we typically get the last day of winter some time in May, or even June. You never know what the heck you’re going to get in April.

OH! And investigating Candlemas led me to the most important thing I’ve learned this weeK:

It’s now official: the tree and the Christmas lights MUST be gone by Feb. 2!

Our crocus are coming up as we speak! :cool:

I don’t know when we got in the pattern of starting seasons on the equinoxes and solstices. It makes sense on rare occasions.

Snowdrops and crocuses bloom whenever they are damn good and ready.

On February 2, we eat sausage to honor the grinding of the hog. Tomato sauce and pasta are traditional, but jambalaya works, too.

You plant sweet peas on St. Patrick’s day.

You plant sweet corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear.

Safe-from-frost is Mother’s Day, when it’s pouring down rain, or a little before. Do you feel lucky?

Peonies usually are in bloom in the last week of May.

All that is true for central Indiana. Your Morher’s-day May Vary, YMMV.


It’ll be 68 here today. Probably freeze again next week or something. Granted, I’m sure South Carolina isn’t what they’re thinking of in terms of Groundhog Day.

And in Florida, it’s supposed to be 86F, Zsofia. :slight_smile:

candlemas on julian calendar is on feb. 15th now. we will lose another day sometime this century when it will become feb. 16th.

if candlemas be fair and bright six more weeks of winter’s might.