Monday Feb 2d Worked about house untill about twelve
and went into Olivers to dine with my whole family
and mother. Alson came this afternoon & carried
mother home. All took tea at Olivers. Mrs S Ames
Oliver Fred & self passed the evening at Mr Swain
Worked some on flannel skirt this afternoon […]
carried Susans stocking to Mr Swains.
We know about February 2; it’s Groundhog’s Day. In 1852, it was no such thing, at least not in New England. In the Pennsylvania Dutch communities of the mid-Atlantic states, however, some folks had begun to claim that the behavior of a groundhog on this date could prognosticate the weather for the remainder of the winter. This practice was first formally celebrated in 1887, in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, and continues today.
More common for this date was the celebration of Candlemas, a holy day in the Christian Church that honored the presentation by Mary of Jesus at the temple. Roman Catholics called it the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Unitarians had no name for it because Unitarians, like some other Protestant sects, didn’t acknowledge ecclesiastical feast days.
Yet there was a saying regarding this time of year that New England farmers – Old Oliver, a Unitarian, included – would have been familiar with:
“Half your wood and half your hay, You should have on Candlemas Day”
Candlemas falls between winter solstice and vernal equinox. It’s a day that turns the corner on winter, and heads for spring. It’s a day to take stock and hope you have enough wood left to keep warm and enough hay remaining to feed your animals for the rest of the winter.