Love in the middle of winter
There are two celebrations in the middle of winter thai warm our hearts. Winter begins December 21 and ends with the first day of spring on March 21 — 90 days, give or lake a Leap Year. That would make the middle of" winter In be February 4. February 2 is Groundhog Day and February 14 is Valentine's Day. What a curious coincidence, and what could these two dates have in common?
As it is celebrated in America, Groundhog Day is when the town of Pursuance, Pennsylvania, watches a hole in the ground to see if a groundhog will come out. If the groundhog comes out and
turns around and sees his shadow then, supposedly, there will be six more weeks of winter. That seems a fairly safe bet since six weeks from February 2 is March 16, and spring doesn't begin until March 21—especially in
Minnesota. But the point of the exercise was to see if the groundhog would see his shadow. If he could see his shadow, then that meant high pressure and generally colder air were still moving in from the north. If he couldn't, then possibly moist air from the south was bringing in clouds, which generally meant warmer temperatures.
It's not very scientific according to contemporary standards, but it is folklore based on common sense and practical observations which, after all is the basis for the modern scientific method.
This practice is probably at least a few hundred years old and tomes from Dutch and German communities in northern Europe. It brings to mind A much more ancient myth that has many of the same characteristics. When Hades, the king of the underworld, carried off her daughter Persephone, Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, went on strike and the fields were barren and there were no crops and, consequently, no burnt offerings for the other gods on Olympus. The other gods got together and demanded that Zeus make Demeter help mortals grow food. Demeter refused and asked Zeus to make Hades give back her daughter. Hades refused, saying Persephone liked staying with him as Queen of the Underworld. Zeus decreed that Hades must allow Persephone to return to her mother, but that if Persephone ate anything on her way up from the center of the earth, then she would belong to Hades.
On her way up Persephone ate one pomegranate seed. Zeus ruled that because of that, Persephone could spend six months with her mother and six months with Hades and for six months the fields would be fertile and for six months they would lie fallow.
There were rituals in ancient Greece at around this time of year to Celebrate the return of Persephone, and it was at this time that the ancient priests told their people to begin to prepare
for spring planting.
It is much lovelier to think of beautiful Persephone turning back to her king of the underworld and tasting one morsel of forbidden fruit, than to associate the preparation for planting with a fat rodent. But some things are lost in translation.
St Valentine's Day is a Catholic feast day celebrating the death of early martyrs. It has nothing to do with the popular custom of exchanging love notes. It seems much more likely that the early Church took over the popular feast day of the ancient Greeks and made it part of the liturgy. The custom of exchanging greeting cards didn't become popular until the nineteenth century, but Persephone's turning around and tasting the fruit while looking into her lover's eyes is a pledge of remembrance that could easily qualify as the first Valentine.