The Downhill Side of Winter


Well, finally it's Ground Hog Day, the mid-point between Winter and Spring. Noticeably, the days are getting longer, and the snow is starting to melt around our abode.

What I didn't realize before this year is the fact that February 2 is also a holiday for religious people ("Candlemas") and a pagan holiday ("Imbolc").

Candlemas is honored as a day of renewal, hope and purification.

February 2 is 40 days following the birth of Jesus, and this is the day that Mary and Joseph brought the newborn Jesus to the Temple. Mary was cleansed, and Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Temple.

According to one story, Simeon, an elderly holy man who was staying in Jerusalem, was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. And when he held the baby Jesus, he knew that he was finally seeing the Messiah.

Simeon said Jesus was "a light to the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory of the people of Israel."

Because of the "light of Jesus," the celebration of Candlemas began. It remains a Christian celebration of the purification of Mother Mary and the first public appearance of Jesus in the Temple.

Back in the day, people would place their candles outside the church in order to be blessed, and they would carry them in a procession to church in order to receive a blessing.

Imbolc, as a pagan holiday on February 2, honors the Celtic goddess of fire, fertility, midwifery and the young. Many Pagans will pay tribute to "Brigid" by arranging an altar and invoking the goddess through prayer.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is how Ground Hog Day gives notice to the waning of winter and the approach of spring. We are "over the hump" and noticeably so.

On the news tonight, I learned that Puxtatawny Phil, the official "ground hog" in Pennsylvania, did NOT see his shadow this morning... and that means an EARLY SPRING, as opposed to six more weeks of winter.

Wintertime, for me, is filled with lots of literary work, because I know once the good weather arrives, I want to be outside more, whether it's working in the yard, walking through the woods, enjoying the sun and the songbirds ... and winter gives me the added time to concentrate on writing and other creative pursuits that give me purpose in life.

As a matter of fact, right now I am at work on THE GROUND HOG MYSTERY, Annette Vetter's sixth adventure (for young adults and those of us who like to think about the times we grew up in the '60s and '70s). I got about two-thirds through GROUND HOG with NaNoWriMo in November ... but wasn't able to finish it, due to unforeseen circumstances in my life.

However, with Ground Hog Day approaching, I started rereading the rough draft three nights ago, and now I just can't WAIT to get back into the novel and finish it. There has been a surge of new energy in my creative spirit ... and it will see me through the remaining dark days of Winter 2016.


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