The Slightly Jewish Connection to Groundhog Day

Many of us who grew up in America are familiar with the amusing (non-)holiday of Groundhog Day, but we are unfamiliar with its Christian forebear, Candlemas, of which an incidental observance of the day in Northern Europe involved divining the weather by watching the behaviors of similar animals, like badgers, and which, like other Christian holidays, is very much infused with certain pagan influences and the usual classical and decidedly Christian practices that many feel also smack of idolatry. I am thankful that until recently I never knew about Candlemas, let alone that it is always February 2, and I guess that in America, the groundhog business (ground)hogs all of the attention.

A short history: Candlemas is 40 days after Christmas. Assuming Jebus was born on December 25, then the eighth day thereafter is January 1, the day he would have been circumcised, and the fortieth day would be February 2, the day on which his mother would have brought her burnt offering and sin offering to the Temple, and present her son to the priests, as per Leviticus 12. That is, Candlemas celebrates the fact that a Jewish family kept a facet of Jewish law. The technical problems: No one has any idea when the historical Jebus was born, and the choice of celebrating December 25 is an easy way to co-opt the Saturnalia holiday, and therefore February 2 has no significance. Also, according to actual Jewish tradition, a woman would bring her sacrifices to the Temple starting from the 41st day, and would not necessarily bring her child to be “presented” at the Temple. Granted, firstborn sons would be redeemed from the priests, but that was from when they were 30 days old. This would indicate that Candlemas should really be celebrated by good, frum Christians on February 3. Which is kind of personally disturbing for me.

But thankfully, this academic excursion into heathen nonsense led me to realize some other important halachic issues, which God willing, I will be writing about soon.


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