Groundhog Day in Italy

On Groundhog Day people in the USA and Canada wait for the little critters to emerge from their holes. For according to Anglo-Saxon folklore, if the groundhog comes out and sees its shadow, six more weeks of winter are sure to follow. And since he can only see his shadow on sunny days, a bright, sunny day foretells more winter and a cloudy day supposedly means spring is on the way.

Italy and groundhogs

Italy, along with many parts of the world, has no Groundhog Day.

Groundhog day in Italy? It’s called Candlemas, with visits to bears and wolves…

But like much of Europe it does celebrate Candlemas, which also falls on February 2. In many Christian traditions, it marks the presentation of the Christ child in the temple. It is also the day when many take their candles to the church for the minister to bless. Using these blessed candles throughout the year serves as a reminder that Christ is the light of the world. 

But another reason for no Groundhog Day in Europe is that we have no groundhogs!

Italy’s Candlemas

They are strictly a North American rodent. Although we do have some of their closely related marmot cousins. Yet Groundhog Day does have its origins in ancient European weather lore surrounding Candlemas Day.

Except that it was of course European mammals who took the celebrity role. Some say the badger was the protagonist, others the bear or wolf, and still others the hedgehog.

Personally, I stick with the hedgehog. My theory is this: The cute, adorable hedgehog never made it over to the New World, while the bear and badger did. So it stands to reason that, when the Americans imported the shadow watching tradition they needed a smallish animal as a substitute. And seized upon the unsuspecting groundhog!

Candlemas lore

It also has its own ancient weather forecasting lore.

Here in Italy it was the bear or wolf (depending on the region), who traditionally held the responsibility of making the midwinter forecast. And the following saying, translated from Italian, makes this perfectly clear.

If the bear throws off his bedding, coming out of his den, Winter will win again. But if he stays in, then Spring will soon return again.

Watching for bear or wolves to emerge has now largely gone by the wayside. Good thing too — it seems a rather dangerous pastime! Over time, the following catchy proverb replaced the animal watching. Nowadays all we have to do is watch the skies, from the warm safety of our homes!

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, Winter will have another fight. If Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain, Winter is gone and won’t come again.

So greatly did people once believe these things, that fishermen even refused to set sail on Candlemas Day. They were convinced that any voyage undertaken that day would surely end in disaster.

Personally, I don’t pay much mind to any of these old wife’s tales. I’ll stick with what the Meteorologists say. They assure us that winter’s increased shipwrecks are probably due to February’s typically stormy weather. Which often continues well into March, whether any animal — groundhog, hedgehog, bear, or wolf — sees its shadow or not!

Who knows if we’ll have a long winter this year? In any case, I won’t be going out for any wolf or bear watching! Although we do have them here in the higher mountains! I’m hoping for a short winter. I’ve gotten so used to the warm mild Mediterranean climate that I’m ready for spring!

More Winter? I sure do hope not!

Images: Groundhog. | Others are my own.

Published by Signora Sheila

Wife, mom, nonna, missionary, and Bible student on a spiritual walk with Christ @mycammino. Because life is at heart a spiritual journey of going further up and further in, into the Father heart of God.

12 thoughts on “Groundhog Day in Italy

  1. Pingback: The Light in Us |
  2. ” Candlemas…, marks the presentation of the Christ child in the temple. It is also the day when many take their candles to the church for the minister to bless. Using these blessed candles throughout the year serves as a reminder that Christ is the light of the world.” What a beautiful way to continue to follow up our celebration of Christ’s birth, on into February which is considered the month of love! I think we’ll light a candle tonight, and read the story of Simeon and Anna, and thank God for the many steps of faithfulness that it took for Jesus to fulfill his purpose in coming to be God with us. Thank you for sharing!


    1. Great idea Linda! It’s amazing how God had everything programmed and ready ahead of time. And then orchestrated events to perfection. He is so awesome!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, yes, yes. Like Mrs. Tiggywinkle from Beatrice Potter! We had one show up in our yard one day and oh how I hoped he/she would decide to stay and live in our hedges. But he didn’t. Perhaps too many neighborhood cats, I don’t know. But they are adorable!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They are, and it would be nice to just see them walk around. They really shouldn’t be used as pets, I don’t think. Oh, Miss Potter!!! I loved her stories.


      2. Absolutely! When I have squirrels living in the backyard, I always find them to be entertaining. Until it comes to them interfering with the bird feeders. Then I lightly spray them with a water bottle haha.


      3. Now that’s something we miss over here. Squirrels have become quite rare, mostly due to habitat loss. Pretty sad, because they are cute and fun to watch! Although I know they can also be pests!

        Liked by 1 person

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