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German Customs in February

Groundhog Day - Candlemas

Traditional and Religious Celebrations and Customs

February - Februar

MORE > Celebrations and Customs (Main Page)

Also see our Feiertag-Kalender, a calendar of
official holidays in German-speaking countries.

Groundhog Day - Mariä Lichtmess (2. Februar)

The American tradition of Groundhog Day has roots going back to Germany and other European countries. February 2 has long been the date of a religious observance known as Candlemas, or Mariä Lichtmess in German. The following Bauernregeln are also related to the second day in February:

Bauernregel 1 Rural Saying 1
Ist's zu Lichtmess mild und rein
wirds ein langer Winter sein.
If Candlemas is mild and pure,
Winter will be long for sure.

Bauernregel 2 Rural Saying 2
Wenn's an Lichtmess
   stürmt und schneit,
ist der Frühling nicht mehr weit;
ist es aber klar und hell,
kommt der Lenz wohl nicht so schnell.
If Candlemas brings
   wind and snow,
Then spring will very soon show.
But if it's clear and bright,
Then spring won't come so right.

At least as early as the 1840s, German immigrants in Pennsylvania had introduced the tradition of weather prediction that was associated with the hedgehog (der Igel) in their homeland. Since there were no hedgehogs in the region, the Pennsylvania Germans adopted the indigenous woodchuck (a name derived from an Indian word), aka the groundhog. The town of Punxsutawney, some 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, has played up the custom over the years and managed to turn itself into the center of the annual Groundhog Day, particularly after the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Each year, people gather to see if a groundhog dubbed "Punxsutawney Phil" will see his shadow after he emerges from his burrow. If he does, the tradition says there will be six more weeks of winter. (Phil has a rather dismal 39% rate of accuracy for his predictions.)

A similar German legend is connected with St. Swithin's Day (Siebenschläfer, 27 June), for which tradition says that if it rains on that day, it will rain for the next seven weeks. But the Siebenschläfer is a dormouse, not a hedgehog.

In Germany, the day has also been known as Mariä Reinigung, das Fest der Darstellung des Herrn and Mariä Kerzenweihe. The latter name (Kerze = candle) is related to the English "Candlemas" name and the tradition of blessing both sacred and household candles on Feb. 2. Up until 1912, Mariä Lichtmess was an official holiday in Germany. The Roman Catholic church has celebrated the feast day of Candlemas since 1960.

For more about Mariä Lichtmess and Groundhog Day, see Feiertage Links - Februar.

More German Customs in February:

Related Pages

Feiertage - Holiday Links - Februar
German and English Web sites related to February holidays in the German-speaking world. From your Guide.

Our collection of German country sayings and folk wisdom.

Celebrations and Customs
German customs throughout the year.

Digital Greeting Cards
Postcards and greeting cards in German for many occasions.

English-German glossaries on a variety of topics, from your Guide.

Wort des Tages
What's today's German word of the day? Advanced or beginner.

German Newsletters
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